Liggett delivers on 'big stage,' wins soccer title

Al Willman
The Detroit News

East Lansing – As the saying goes: There’s a first time for everything.

For Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett, its first shootout of the season came at the perfect time, leading to a 1-0 win (4-2 in penalty kicks) over Montrose for the Division 4 girls’ soccer championship at DeMartin Stadium on the campus of Michigan State.

“I love shootouts,” said Liggett freshman defender Kate Birgbauer, whose game-winning goal in the fourth round of kicks propelled Liggett to its first D4 title since 2005. “I like the pressure.”

Kelly Solak, Maddie Wu, Alexis Wenger and Birgbauer (game-winner) scored for Liggett (19-2-1) in penalty kicks.

Emma Gipe and Ellory Barnette scored for Montrose (23-4-1).

Kara Francis made nine saves for Liggett.

Alexis Rush stopped nine shots for Montrose.

The championship also marks the first time since 2012 that Grandville Calvin Christian did not earn the title. Calvin Christian lost 2-1 to Muskegon Western Michigan Christian in a regional final on June 10.

“Obviously, I’m really proud of the girls and their ability to step up on the big stage and get it done in a very tense, pressure-filled situation like a shootout,” Liggett coach David Dwaihy said.

Neither team had an edge early in the match, and there was only one shot on goal in the first 10 minutes – which Liggett goalkeeper Kara Francis stopped easily.

In the 12th minute, Montrose midfielder Remington Hobson was in all alone, but Francis made an outstanding sliding save – keeping the game scoreless.

Montrose began to turn up the pressure late in the first half, but couldn’t capitalize on a pair of scoring chances. At the half, the match remained scoreless.

Montrose had an 8-1 advantage in corner kicks midway through the second half, but could not turn those opportunities into goals. Through 66 minutes, the game remained scoreless. Montrose finished with an 11-1 advantage in corners.

“If you get 11 of them, one of them has to go in,” Montrose coach Jason Perrin said. “They’re very similar to us. They get 10 girls behind the ball and clog up the passing lanes.”

Montrose defender Mattie Reich took a shot that went about an inch above the crossbar in the 74th minute – the closest either team had come to scoring, to that point. Liggett’s Alexis Wenger missed by half a foot to the right of Rush, about a minute later.

Montrose midfielder Amber Wing went high on a penalty kick with eight seconds left in regulation, sending the match to extra time – still scoreless.

Both defenses stood out in the first extra period, but neither team was able to find the back of the net. After 90 minutes, the game remained scoreless.

Wenger appeared to score in the 95th minute, after a throw-in but the goal was waved off when the officials determined no Liggett player touched the ball before it went past Rush.

“On a throw-in, it’s technically an indirect kick,” Dwaihy said. “So if nobody touches it and it goes in, it’s disallowed. It has to touch another player first.”

Al Willman is a freelance writer


All finals at Michigan State, East Lansing


■Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 1, Canton 0


■Forest Hills Northern vs. Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, 4 p.m.


■Hudsonville Unity Christian vs. Flint Powers Catholic, 1 p.m.


■Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett 1, Montrose 0 (SO)