By way of impenetrable defense, Richmond and Marlette are a step closer to the ultimate dream of a state title.
After two shutout wins in their district championship games, the Blue Devils and Red Raiders will kick off the regional tournament. Richmond will travel to Troy Athens to play Livonia Clarenceville at 8 p.m. while Marlette will face University Liggett at 4 p.m. at Saginaw Valley Lutheran.
At this stage in the tournament, it just takes four wins to win the state title. Here’s what Marlette and Richmond will be expecting before the ball is booted in the regional semifinals.
Richmond ready for regionals
Richmond might have forgot what losing feels like. Since its last loss in regulation came in August, there is no doubting the Blue Devils have figured out what it takes to make this postseason a special one.
Next in their path is Clarenceville, which capped its district round with a 4-0 win over Dearborn Henry Ford. Richmond head coach Lance Whitney and his team certainly don’t know too much about the Trojans, but mysterious opponents have been a plus so far this season.
“I think we do have an advantage because we don’t know much about the teams, and that’s when we do our best,” Whitney said. “For some reason this particular team is nervous with familiar faces.”
There are more familiar faces in the other regional semifinal game with Lutheran North taking on Grosse Ile before Richmond takes the field. Like Richmond, Grosse Ile comes in with high expectations as they are the No. 5-ranked Division 3 team by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association.
The Blue Devils are currently ranked No. 15, but their defense has been proven to shut down any other top-ranked team. With a powerful back line of Steven Gil, Brandon Jacques, Evan Quigley and Brandon VanGorp, the early-game jitters might not be too strong for the team in its first regional game since 2007.
“I have a good number of club kids that have played in big club games for a long time,” Whitney said. “Of course there is going to be nerves, but the other team is in the same boat as we are.”
Marlette looking to stay hot
The Red Raiders have been nothing short of impressive lately, grabbing two big wins in the last few weeks.
The first big win came against Memphis to split the Greater Thumb Conference South title. The most recent victory came on Saturday as Andrew Storm and Jake Zuhlke each scored to power Marlette past Harbor Beach – the GTC North’s champions.
Once again, the Red Raiders have a quick, challenging team standing in their way in Liggett. The Knights thumped Parkway Christian 8-0 in the district finals, but not before beating Memphis in a 4-0 win.
“I was talking with (head coach Andrew Rohde) from Memphis and they are top notch,” Marlette head coach Dave Hayden said. “They’re fast and finish well.”
The Red Raiders are a tough team to intimidate, shown by their district title win over No. 11-ranked Harbor Beach. With a defensive unit as strong as Colin Ferguson, Luke Strauel, Barret George and Steven Wilkinson, the Red Raiders are pesky competitors in every game.
“We look forward to the game, and it’s just a nice step for our program,” Hayden said. “Win or lose, we really do appreciate what we’ve done.”