Falcons come up short
STOCKTON – One corner kick was all that stood between the Forest Lake Christian girls soccer team and the program’s first-ever Sac-Joaquin Section Championship on Saturday at Lincoln High School.
The flow of play in the opening minutes of the contest between the Falcons and Modesto Christian began to indicate that the game was going to be a low-scoring affair with one goal quite possibly being enough for the win.
That theory proved to be correct as Modesto Christian scored on a corner kick with 14 minutes and 26 seconds remaining in the game to take home its third-consecutive section championship with a 1-0 win.
“Even though we lost, I still feel like were part of making history here at Forest Lake Christian,” Falcons coach Alane Burke said after her team played in its first-ever section championship. “And I think once our players get over the shock of losing, they’ll realize what they accomplished. These girls will be sisters for life.”
Modesto Christian sweeper Jennifer Wheeler, a junior, ran up field to take the corner kick – something she has done regularly at crucial points in various games throughout the season.
Wheeler sent a perfect ball into the middle of the penalty box right to the head of charging midfielder Shannon Reimer, the team’s leading scorer. In one solid motion, Reimer, who managed to break free from the defense, zinged the ball straight into the far right side of the goal off her head.
Modesto Christian coach Mark Chase said afterward it was a play he’s seen his two players connect on at least seven times this past season.
The Falcons were never able to respond with a strike of their own as getting behind Wheeler proved to be a tough task. Many of the Falcons’ quality shots came from 30 yards out as their fast-break chances were often quashed around the top of the box.
To make scoring even more difficult, the Crusaders assigned a defender solely to the Falcons’ leader scorer in senior captain Jillian Witzke throughout the entire first half. Modesto Christian then sent help if she got anything going in an effort to limit her effectiveness.
Forest Lake Christian’s attack was also hampered with the team’s second leading scorer in junior Shelby Lowe playing sparingly because of a severe hip injury.
Modesto Christian had no easy path to the goal either as the back four defenders for the Falcons – Jordan England, Taryn McGirr, Sarah Hodges and Aubrey Stelzner – rarely allowed the Crusaders an open look. The most dangerous Crusader scoring opportunities came when Modesto Christian was able to push up its entire squad and swarm the box with options.
“It was a game that swayed from one side to the other the whole game,” Chase said. “The game was fought on both sides of the field.”
The game became increasingly physical as the scoreless tie continued deep into the second half.
With its win, Modesto Christian (22-2-1) becomes the first non-Division I team to win three consecutive section championships. Bella Vista, Del Campo and St. Francis have all accomplished that feat in Division I play. The Crusaders will lose just one senior next season.
The loss marked the last high school game for Forest Lake Christian (17-5-5) seniors Megan Stallings, Rachel Kerber, Witzke, Hodges and McGirr.
“I hope the team remembers that the seniors played with heart,” Witzke said while wiping tears from her eyes as she took off her shin guards one final time. “I hope we taught them to leave everything on the field.”
To contact sportswriter Stacy Hicklin, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4244.
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User
Grass Valley native Brad Sweet drove past the competition and into victory lane last week, snapping his longest winless streak of the season.