EAST LANSING – Coming off back-to-back Division 2 state soccer championships, Tyler Caldwell felt his team was a little too cocky at the start of the year.
However, as the season progressed, the East Lansing High School senior said his team began to trust one another, and it’s led to solid play at the most critical stage of the season.
The Division 2 No. 5-ranked Trojans will advance to their fifth consecutive district title game after beating St. Johns, 4-0, on Thursday night. East Lansing will face Haslett at 4 p.m. Saturday at the East Lansing Soccer Complex.
“We started playing well a few games ago,” Caldwell said. “We were, like, cocky in the beginning. We thought we could do what we wanted, whenever we wanted.
“We’re peaking right now, but today we started off really slow. We can’t do that against Haslett.”
The scoring opportunities were plentiful for the Trojans (18-3-1) in the first 40 minutes, but the result showed otherwise. East Lansing’s Sam Lebbie stumbled into his side’s only goal of the first half less than two minutes into the game. The Redwings’ keeper, Brett Post, had trouble receiving a pass from a teammate at the top of the box, which allowed Lebbie to make a play on the ball and score on an open net.
The Trojans dominated possession and pace in the first half, but couldn’t add to the lead. St. Johns sat back and made it challenging for East Lansing in the attacking third.
“The longer it went the more confident St. Johns became,” Trojan coach Nick Archer said. “When you give a team a chance, they’re going to take advantage of it.
“They kept themselves in the game. We couldn’t put it away.”
Much like the first half, East Lansing controlled the flow of the match in the final 40 minutes. However, the opportunities were capped with positive results.
Caldwell moved the Trojans’ lead to 2-0 when he buried home a pass from Zach Lane. Nearly 10 minutes later, Quinton Hay added another goal for East Lansing. And Sabri Fair’s goal put the finishing touches on the 4-0 victory with less than two minutes remaining.
The Redwings’ lone scoring opportunity came late in the second half when Caleb McCastle’s shot near the top of the box was saved by Trojan goalie Chris Wallace.
“We knew from the beginning of the season that (East Lansing) was going to be a really good team,” said Post, who had eight saves on 12 shots. “We held some guys back (on defense) because we knew they would be taking a lot of shots.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.