BY JAKE LOURIM
WILLIAMSTON — For the past two years, the Troy girls soccer team has gone to the state championship game and gone home crying. This year, the girls went home crying again. Only this year, they were tears of joy.
Seniors Madison Hirsch and Kayla Porter each scored for Troy as the Colts erased another 1-0 postseason deficit to top Grandville for the Division 1 state championship at Williamston High School Saturday afternoon.
Just as they did Wednesday in the state semifinals, the Colts fell behind early, 1-0.
Grandville freshman Sydney Blitchok had the ball on the right side and, facing Troy defenders ahead, fired a shot over Troy senior goalie Alison Holland with 25:51 left.
“The quality of that goal helped us,” Holland said. “We couldn’t really do anything about it.”
But that was all Grandville got, and in the final 65 minutes, the Bulldogs only managed two more shots. Troy simply went to work on an equalizer.
“We knew we could come back,” Porter said. “We knew we could do it again — no one could beat us.”
“Regardless of what happens, you have the ability to do it,” Troy coach Brian Zawislak told his team. “You have the ability to keep doing it. They score, and we just try to say there’s a lot of soccer left and keep going after them.”
Troy came out hesitant to start the game, unable to string series of passes together through the midfield and adapting to Williamston’s grass field.
But Grandville’s goal set off the alarm. Less than a minute later, senior Grace Goodrich had Troy’s first shot on goal, and three minutes after that, Hirsch put the Colts on the board.
“Once we’re down, Maddie picks herself up,” Porter said. “That’s what she does.”
Hirsch got forward and chased down a ball from sophomore Sarah Troccoli down the middle.
Face-to-face with the Grandville goalie Liz Schutte, Hirsch lofted a quick shot over Schutte and into the back of the net.
“We’ve been scoreless in the last two, so we’ve got those demons,” Zawislak said.
Troy nearly had a go-ahead goal with 14:10 left when Troccoli shot the ball off the crossbar and Hirsch had the rebound, but the goalie saved it.
From there, the battle was on, and the game continued to get more physical. A Grandville forward tried to run down a long cross going toward Holland and couldn’t stop her momentum, pushing Holland into the goalpost without a card.
Troy came out firing to start the second half, earning two consecutive corner kicks but failing to convert.
Finally, with 26:29 left, Porter notched the game-winner. Senior Erin Wrubel sent a ball into the corner, but no one chased Porter, who ran down to get it and slipped it past the charging goalie.
After the goal, the team really erupted, as the players on the field came over to celebrate with the bench.
“I was teasing the girls and saying they don’t celebrate they should, so they came over to the bench to get everyone to celebrate,” Zawislak said.
Grandville amped up the pressure in the final 20 minutes, but only managed one shot, a soft long ball picked up by Holland in the box.
“We dropped Erin Wrubel into the back line to give us a little bit more mobility in the back line, and we put Brittany Guitar in front of the back line, side-by-side with Jenna Cabelof, to try to be ball-winners and keep knocking balls down the field,” Zawislak said.
In the last five minutes, Troy held the ball in the corners to run out the clock. As it did, the bench players started celebrating, and when the final buzzer sounded, the students who made the trip jumped the fence and stormed the field.
Troy had lost the previous two state championship games, 1-0 to Novi and 2-0 to Okemos. Half of this year’s team played on both of those teams.
The Colts started this season 4-6-3 with several different players injured, and a return trip seemed unlikely.
“The seniors and I are blown away,” Holland said. “None of us expected to be here at the beginning of the season.”
Since that start, Troy won 11 straight games — four to end the regular season and seven in the playoffs — with a healthy roster.
“Even through this year, there were moments when they doubted themselves, but we just tried to focus on the positive and keep moving in the right direction,” Zawislak said. “It just worked out for us.”
No victory felt sweeter than the state championship they won Saturday, which for Hirsch and Holland, felt even better than they thought.
(Jake Lourim is a senior at Troy High School and a member of the S.H.P. Media Group / www.northoaklandsports.com Student Correspondence Program. He is publisher of website www.troycoltsportsupdate.com and a member of the Troy school newspaper editorial staff. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org)