BY DAN STICKRADT
WEB AND CONTENT EDITOR
CLARKSTON — In her first season of high school soccer, Kate Childers is enjoying the moments with her Grand Blanc teammates. Her fellow Bobcats are enjoying having her on their side.
Childers, who came over from the Michigan Hawks ECNL 10-month team, has been on a scoring barrage as of late and recorded her first career four-goal game as Grand Blanc blanked Flushing 4-0 Wednesday in a Division 1 district semifinals at Clarkston High School.
The win vaulted the Bobcats into Friday’s district finals, also at Clarkston.
“We have a little bit of experience, which is one thing. Obviously the girls that were coming back and some of them were in their third year because of Covid one year and would’ve been four year varsity players,” said veteran Grand Blanc coach Greg Kehler. “They helped the younger girls along. We moved some kids up last year from the (junior varsity) that contributed really well this year. They were underclassmen last year as sophomores so they gained a little bit of experience. Then our midfield is the key to our game. We have three solid midfielders in there and with Kate Childers coming back to play her senior year and she hasn’t (played high school) but played at the club level. That really helped us a lot.”
Grand Blanc (15-4-2) took a 3-0 halftime lead, as Childers converted three times behind the Bobcats stellar team play which saw them possess the ball for much of the first half.
Childers, the third and final Childers sister to suit up for Grand Blanc, gave the Bobcats the early lead when she finished off a cross from sophomore forward Iyana Blake. The University of Minnesota signee made it 2-0 midway through the second half converting a feed from junior center back Kendall Croteau.
Childers struck again late in the half when she laced a shot into the net following a pass from senior midfielder Anna Sabo for the three-goal halftime advantage.
Sabo set up Childers once again with 33:43 left in the contest, as Sabo’s cornerkick into the middle of the box was headed home by Childers, a senior midfielder who now has 30 goals and 13 assists on the year.
Grand Blanc has now outscored the opposition 92-18 this season with 11 shutouts over 21 games and are in position to win its first district title since 2019. Last year the Bobcats suffered a rare first-round defeat to Davison after earning district crowns some 75 percent of its history.
“We haven’t won it in 2-3 years, so I grown up watching my older sisters play – and I played club the last three years – so I was really excited to play (high school) this year,” added Childers. “We didn’t win the SVL (Saginaw Valley League) but the whole season we’ve scored a lot of goals and we’ve had a lot of improvement from the younger players. It felt really good.”
Mercy Aluko and sophomore Paige Bilbey shared the shutout in net for Grand Blanc.
“Overall we’ve had a really good season. We broke back into the top 15 this season and we were in the hunt for the league title. We didn’t win it, as we took second to (Midland) Dow but we got a lot better as the season went along and now we’re in position to try to win our first district since 2019,” added Kehler.
Flushing’s scoring chances were few and far between, as the Raiders finished 13-5-1 with two of those losses coming to Grand Blanc. The Bobcats defeated Flushing 5-0 back on April 5.
The Raiders finished second in the Flint Metro League at 10-1-0 – their highest league finish since joining the league 15 years ago.
CLARKSTON 6, OXFORD 2: One team’s bad luck is another team’s good fortune.
Oxford’s starting goalkeeper, junior Korinne Ihrke, suffered what appeared to be a broken wrist or arm during warm-ups just five minutes before the lineup introductions and national anthem. The Wildcats were forced to put in a volunteer junior-varsity call up who once played goalkeeper into goal against an OAA Red Division opponent in the state tournament.
Clarkston feasted on the opportunity to go up against an inexperienced goalie and led start to finish in record a 6-2 victory in a Division 1 district semifinals.
The district host Wolves (12-9-0) scored on their first three shot attempts and senior forward Emerson Wood was the prime benefactor on the hungry Wolves’ attack. She scored the first three goals and recorded her first career four-goal game on the night to help lift the Wolves to the district championship match for the first time in several years.
The Wolves will host Grand Blanc at 6 p.m. Friday for the district trophy.
Clarkston finished third in the OAA White Division last season, but with the top two teams not wanting to move up Clarkston jumped at the chance. The Wolves lost last year’s leading goal scorer Micaela Hollbein to an injury last winter and Wood and her teammates have picked up the offensive slack.
“It’s our first time since I’ve played on varsity, so it feels good after four years to finally get to the (district) finals,” smiled Wood. “Watching these girls all come together, and all the hard work we’ve put into this year is finally coming through.”
Clarkston has come a long ways since the beginning of the season, especially after yielding a combined 18 goals in its first seven contests. The Wolves have recovered for a 55-36 scoring edge this season with five clean sheets.
“We’re playing a lot better now than we were earlier in the season,” admitted Clarkston Coach Damian Huffer. “The (team) balance is good. (We) are on a bit of a roll, so hopefully the momentum will lead us into Friday in a good position. It’s going to be a tough game because, obviously, Grand Blanc have some quality players. It was a tight game last time. They were better than us last time, but like I said, we’re in a good situation.”
Wood netted the first goal on a nice individual effort. After corralling a through pass from senior forward Ava Bechtell, Wood dribbled down the right side, beat her mark before lacing a shot into the far post with 35:35 remaining in the half.
The same combo hooked up again with Wood cashing in on a breakaway opportunity from Bechtell to make it 2-0 with 20:26 left in the half.
The Wolves converted on their third shot of the half, this time Wood collected a steal in the backfield before blasting a shot into the net 18:27 remaining in the half.
Wood’s 22-yard shot deflected off a Wildcats defender and into the net with 29:58 left. Junior midfielder Macie Moscovic’s converted off a Wood pass with 26:24 remaining and Bechtell laced in a 23-yard free kick into the net with 5:53 remaining to cap the scoring for the Wolves.
Oxford was able to convert twice in the final 23 minutes of the game but could never catch up. Freshman Madelyn Boyd’s two cornericicks led to both goals, which resulted in flicks in the box by junior sister Ella Boyd and goals by sophomore Vivian Cruz and senior Alexandria Dawood, respectively.
The Wildcats we’re in a bind without their star keeper and never were able to adapt in yielding a season-high six goals.
“I’m definitely not one to make excuses by any means, but just the terrible, terrible luck that happened today is not what my players deserve and not what all their hard work,” said first-year Oxford coach Gabrielle Schriver, who guided her team to a second straight OAA-White title despite graduating 11 players from the previous year. “We had a JV player step in goal for us and we obviously not expecting this to happen. I think Korinne is one of the better goalies in the state and losing her that way hurts against a quality opponent like Clarkston.”
Clarkston, which finished 1-5-0 and in seventh in a loaded OAA Red Division this season, has now won 10 of its last 12 games after starting 2-7-0. The Wolves lost 1-0 to Grand Blanc back on April 20 but now will have a chance at revenge and win their first district crown in more than a decade. Wood talked about a formation change later in the league season which led to the turnaround.
“I think everything just really fell into place as we moved forward, and really changing that formation helped a lot because we just adapted to it more than I think than our original formation,” offered Wood. “Now we get a chance to play for a district championship.”