BY DAN STICKRADT
EAST LANSING — Simply put, Okemos left no doubt who the best girls soccer team in the state was in 2012.
The Chieftains finished up an improbably season, finishing 24-1-1, yielding six goals and pitching 20 shutouts. The final chapter came in Saturday’s Division 1 state finals at Michigan State University’s Old College Field.
Okemos blanked Troy, 2-0, to win its second state title in school history.
“The numbers are really nice when you think about them, but the only thing that really matters is the (state championship medal),” said Okemos coach Brian Guggemos, whose team won its second state title in the past decade but first in Division 1. The Chieftains won a state title in Division 2 title in 2006.
Troy (19-3-3) outshot Okemos 16-14, including 12-9 with shots directly on frame. But the Chieftains were far more opportunistic, holding a 5-3 edge on cornerkicks and having the better chances throughout the game.
“We were are one of the smaller Division 4 teams, yet we have won four or five games against ranked teams to win the state title,” said Guggemos. “It’s not like w backed into this. We beat some very good teams. The girls have put in the time, played on some good clubs teams and came together here to accomplish something special. This is something that they will cherish for the rest of their lives.”
The second-ranked Chieftains scored a goal in each half to down the eight-ranked Colts, who were playing in their second straight state finals and sixth in 18 seasons.
Okemos took a 1-0 lead with 12:04 left in the first half, when Kristen Yewah sent a perfectly slotted low cross through traffic to far side of the box and an onrushing Emma Baker one-timed a shot from six yards out that found the back of the net.
Okemos, which did not give up a goal in postseason, and entered the game with 19 shutouts, scored again with 30:47 left in the second half.
Ashton Miller beat her mark near the touch line and her high cross sailed over Troy goalkeeper Alison Holland’s hands and Liz Mullin was in front of the net to volley home the shot for a 2-0 lead.
The Chieftains, who did not give up more than one goal in a game this season, picked up 11 saves from Molly O’Connor, who recorded her 20th shutout of the campaign, one of the highest in state history, boys or girls.
Twice in the contest, O’Connor made saves on back-to-back shots to keep the lead intact, including one with outstretched arms while on the ground to block away a rebound shot by Troy’s Sarah Trocolli with 34 minutes to go.
“Our goal was to keep the (goals allowed) to under 10, but I think what really mattered for us was to get here and win it all,” said O’Connor. “This is the greatest way to finish up high school, with a state championship. We worked so hard to do this.”
Both teams traded off chances early in the contest. Troy’s Madison Hirsch nearly caught O’Connor napping but her bending shot over O’Connor’s head from 30 yards out sailed just wide of the left post. The colts’ could not break down the Chieftains’ stingy defense.
“I think if we could have to a goal in the first half and scored first, it could have been a completely different game,” said Troy coach Brian Zawislak, whose team lost in the finals last season 1-0 to Novi and were playing in their third Final Four in four seasons. “We had some chances, but couldn’t tuck one away.
“It hurts being in the finals two years in a row and not winning a title, but I think our seniors have set the tone for this program,” added Zawislak. “Some of them have played in 25 playoffs games in their career. I don’t know how many players can say that.”
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