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06 / 29

United Women Win Battle for First Against Grand Rapids

WRITTEN BY: Tori Twining
PUBLISHED ON: June 29, 2018

EAST LANSING, Mich. – On a scorching Friday night, the Lansing United women took on the Grand Rapids Football Club in the battle for first place in the UWS Midwest Conference. United went in with a one point lead in the standings and added three more points after 90 minutes of play, beating GRFC 2 – 1, maintaining first place.

“The last two matches have put us into a position we didn’t want to be in,” head coach Jason Crist said. “We put ourselves into a must win today. I’m proud of the players. I didn’t think we played our smartest soccer, but we played very hard.”

United started with two great chances. In the 4th minute, Lexi Pelafas beat a defender and found an opening at the top of the box, but her shot went left of the goal. Two minutes later, an open Aubrey Schierbeek was found in front of the net, sending a header just wide.

Lansing finally broke though in the 12th minute when Riko Sagara got a head on a perfect cross from Anna Stinson, scoring her third goal on the season. Sagara’s goal put United up 1 – 0 on Grand Rapids early in the match.

“Riko is a big piece of why we go and how we go, and she can do some really special things on the ball,” Crist said. “You give her a little bit of space and some room to be creative, she can pick a part the defense with a pass, and she can score.”

Three minutes later, Grand Rapids evened the score at 1 – 1. GRFC’s Marti Corby found an open shot and buried it into the top right corner passed a diving Grace Kraft.

In the 18th minute, Grand Rapids found another chance. GRFC’s Cindy Lay was found at the side of the box. Her shot hit the cross bar and dropped far enough out for the Lansing defense to clear the ball to midfield and end the opportunity.

In the 37th minute, United had a chance to go ahead at the half. Sagara won the ball from the Grand Rapids’ defense and sent the ball through for Stinson. Stinson found an open chance in the box, but the keeper caught the shot.

The first half ended even at 1 – 1.

Sagara created another chance for United early in the second half. In the 49th minute, she found Schierbeek running into the box. Schierbeek ran behind the defender and created an open shot, but the ball went high of the goal.

One minute later, Sagara took a corner kick for United and sent a cross into the box. United defender Mary Carlson got her head on the ball, but referees said the Grand Rapids keeper made the save before it could cross into the goal.

“Riko definitely is one of the creatives,” midfielder, Alexis Mitchell said. “She’s like the creative Messi in the midfield, beautiful touches, dribbling in and out of people. She can beat three players with one touch.”

In the 65th minute, Lansing was granted a penalty kick after a Grand Rapids’ hand ball in the box. Mitchell stepped up to take it and buried the PK in the bottom right corner. Mitchell’s penalty proved to be the winning goal Friday night.

“I love practicing [penalty kicks],” Mitchell said. “I created the PK. I flicked it up to the girl’s hand, so I had the momentum.”

The United women play their final match of the regular season at Archer Stadium, Sunday, July 1st at 4 PM. 

“We’re top of the league now,” Mitchell said. “We have one more game on Sunday and we have to come out and finish it strong.”

“We’re in a spot where if we can win Sunday, we can’t be caught,” Crist said. “That means the playoffs would be here. Obviously everyone wants to play at home, but us especially. This is a great place to play, we have a great crowd. We’ve been drawing great numbers to the games and we get a lot of energy from them.”