The Saline Hornets ran into the toughest team they faced all year when they met the Hudsonville Eagles on Saturday morning in the semi-finals of the State Championships. The Eagles were ranked as one of the top three teams in the state all season long and the Hornets were riding a nine-game win streak into the contest.
Hudsonville’s Alaina Lubbers proved why she was the MWPA West Region’s Season MVP as she scored the first two goals of the game. Saline’s goalkeeper, Katie Wagner, made a huge save on a 5-meter penalty shot with 2:22 left to go in the first quarter to re-energize the Hornets.
Junior co-captain, Cassie Anderson, put the Hornets on the board in the 2nd quarter, taking a pass from Gillian Cain and skipping a powerful shot over the left shoulder of Hudsonville’s goalkeeper. Three minutes later, senior Lisa Gross scored on a pretty lob shot from nine meters out. With less than one minute left in the half, the Hornets converted on a 6 on 5 advantage as Maddy Murphy hit Cassie Anderson who scored her second goal of the game. At halftime, the Hornets trailed 6-3.
Mid-way through the third quarter, goalkeeper Katie Wagner took a hard shot off the face and had to leave the game. Cassie Anderson took over the goalkeeping duties and made two saves. Jen Green scored Saline’s only goal in the third quarter on another 6 on 5 advantage. After three quarters of play, Saline trailed 8-4.
Wagner returned to the game at the start of the 4th quarter and the Hornets’ defense was swarming, keeping the Eagles at bay for four and a half minutes. Senior, Gillian Cain narrowed the gap, to 8-5 scoring on a pretty passing play that started with a pass from Anderson to Sam Fitch and then to Cain. But the Eagles’ struck three times in the next last two minutes of the game to earn a spot in the championship game.
Sam Fitch finished the game with four steals despite having two exclusions called on her early in the first quarter. Gillian Cain, a stalward defender all season, also had four steals. Lisa Gross and Katie Wagner each had three steals, Annika Olsen had two and Anderson had one.
With the loss in the semi-finals, the Hornets’ next game would be the consolation game to decide 3rd and 4th place against their East Region rival, the Okemos Chiefs, at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday.