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GIRLS SOCCER: Cascades Conference champion Manchester adds district title to resume



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MANCHESTER, Mich. – With each passing game, Manchester is proving the theory that defense really does win championships.


Just 2.5 weeks after putting the finishing touches on a perfect Cascades Conference championship – the inaugural year that the Cascades Conference expanded enough to offer a league schedule – Manchester was back at it again last week with a pair of wins in capturing a Division 4 district title.


Manchester defeated Adrian Lenawee Christian (1-0) in the district semifinals and came back Friday to defeat neighboring rival Clinton (3-1) in the district finals. And Clinton boasts one of the state’s top juniors overall in NCAA Division I recruit Aubrey Lauer, who is gaining some Big Ten Conference and Southeastern Conference interest.


The Flying Dutchmen, ranked fifth in Division 4 after not being ranked the first couple weeks of the season, competed in the past in the Independent Soccer League or as an Independent. Last year Manchester was 10-0 against teams in the Independent Soccer League. Two years ago, the Flying Dutchmen were ISL runners-up to Adrian Lenawee Christian, a team the Flying Dutchmen beat twice this season.


“We are senior-heavy,” admitted Manchester coach Daniel Tar. “We also have three exchange students this year that have helped and our sophomore class is also strong. We kind of felt we could contend this year with all of our seniors.”

Against Clinton in the district finals, Miranda Austin scored just 1:30 into the game and sophomore Madelyn Bennett scored with 35:00 remaining in the opening half.


Aubrey Lauer scored the goal for Clinton – her state-leading 75th goal of the campaign – to help the Lenawee County Athletic Association champs back into the game before senior Megan Somerville scored again for the Flying Dutchmen to cap the scoring in the second half.


This season, Manchester is 17-2-0 overall and extended its impressive 17-game unbeaten streak with the two district wins as the top seed in its district. The Flying Dutchmen opened the season with losses to Jackson Lumen Christi (3-1) and Milan (2-1) on April 5 and April 8, respectively, but have not lost since. Manchester finished a perfect 14-0-0 in the Cascades Conference, which has an all-time high eight of the 12 schools now sponsoring girls soccer.


“Our league brought in a few schools and some had programs. Most of us competed in the ISL (Independent Soccer League) in the past, but it’s nice to be able to play everyone in our actual league,” noted Tar. “Napoleon added girls soccer a couple of years ago and Hanover-Horton brought back soccer after a couple of years of not fielding a team. It’s nice to see growth in terms of the number of schools having soccer in our area of the state.”

Manchester has outscored the opposition 80-8 this season with 14 shutouts – a school record the squad keeps extending. Inside Cascades Conference play, the Flying Dutchmen outscored their 14 opponents 72-1 with 13 clean sheets. The only school to score on Manchester in league play was Hanover-Horton on May 17, a 10-1 victory for Manchester.


Overall, the only schools to score on senior-laden Manchester this season are Jackson Lumen Christi (3), Milan (2), Adrian Lenawee Christian (1), Hanover-Horton (1) and Clinton (1). During the 17-game win streak, the Flying Dutchmen have only conceded three goals while scoring 78 goals.


A large senior class of nine including three exchange students leads this group. Plus some talented underclassmen have aided this year’s incredible run, which at one time included a 10-game streak where Manchester did not concede a single goal.


Manchester is well-balanced offensively, with senior Meghan Somerville (F/M) leading the way with 22 goals and 18 assists. Senior Ellis Stapelfeldt (M), an exchange student from Germany, has also been a steady player in the attack, while senior Emma Woods (M) marked up the aforementioned Lauer and only allowed the high-flyin’ D-I recruit to score the one goal in the district finals. Woods has frequently grabbed the assignment of marking the opposition’s top offensive threat.


Sophomores Olivia Woods (M), Madelynn Bennett (F/M) and Abbi Austin (F/M) and senior Miranda Austin (F) are also key players in Manchester’s vaunted attack. Exchange students Susi Antognozzi (Italy) and Mufliha Abdurizaeva (Uzbekistan) have helped the cause.


Seniors Fiona Howard (CB) and Gianna Turek (OB) anchor the backfield in front of senior goalkeeper Megan Edwards. Juniors Lila Harvey (OB) and Savannah Roe (CB) are also key parts of the defense that has allowed a paltry 0.43 team goals-against-average and the 14 clean sheets in 19 games.


“We have 19 players on the roster but we’ll lose a big part of our team after this year,” said Tar, whose team features a mix of club and recreational players coupled with a multitude of two- and three-sport athletes. “I’m going to go out and recruit some players at our school to play soccer next year.”


Several of Manchester’s players earned All-Cascades Conference or All-District honors last week at various postseason meetings and a few could end up gaining some type of All-Region or All-State recognition in the near future.


Last year, Manchester captured its district championship with wins over Clinton (4-2) and Adrian Lenawee Christian (2-1) before falling to nemesis Jackson Lumen Christi in the regional semifinals in overtime, 2-1. The Flying Dutchmen travel Tuesday to Riverview Gabriel Richard for their regional semifinal match against – Jackson Lumen Christi at 6 p.m.


Lumen Christi reached the Division 4 regional finals last season and is a tradition-rich program from south central Michigan with multiple deep postseason runs on its resume.


“They’ve been consistently one of the top teams from our area of the state for a long time,” said Tar. “We’ll get another shot at them in the regional. I know we lost to them in our first game of the season, but we’ve a much better team right now then we were in March and early April. We hope to give them a run this time.”


(Have a story suggestion for the Premier Media Group and the Michigan Soccer Network regarding club soccer, high school varsity, amateur soccer, collegiate soccer or professional soccer of teams or players with Michigan ties, contact Communications Specialist/Web and Content Editor/Director of News Dan Stickradt via email at, or call 248-884-1051. Dan Stickradt is a 31-year veteran of the Michigan Media circles and recently joined the staff full time in March of 2024. Want to schedule a broadcast game or live show, contact PMG/MSN Director of Broadcasting Jonathan Turner for availability and pricing at 

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