DURAND — After his team was eliminated by Lake Fenton in Thursday’s Division 3 district championship game, Ovid-Elsie coach Craig Thelen gathered his team for a talk.
He turned away from his players to collect his thoughts, but was frozen, too full of emotion to speak.
“There were too many thoughts to collect, and too many tears to hold back,” he said.
The Marauders sensed this and gathered around him in a group hug, joining him in tears and, eventually, laughter as they were together one final time.
Lake Fenton left with a sense of accomplishment after the 5-4 victory — and a healthier respect for Ovid-Elsie’s Josie Nash, who assisted on the Marauders’ goal in the first half and scored three times herself in the second half to keep the Marauders in contention.
“We knew coming into this game that she was going to be dangerous,” Lake Fenton coach Spencer Quick said. “You have to disallow her from getting comfortable, and we did a good job of that. But when she did get her feet on the ball, she took advantage.”
The Blue Devils (12-5-3) relied on an attack that emphasized perimeter shooting. Lake Fenton tried to loft the ball over Ovid-Elsie goalie Alexis Kusnier, who made nine saves.
Morgan Reitano scored first in 14th minute for the Blue Devils. Lake Fenton dominated for long stretches of the half, but Nash made the most of her first opportunity not long afterward.
Taking the ball down the sideline in front of the benches, Nash tried to sprint toward the goal.
“I was going full bore up the side, full of adrenalin, because I had been sitting for a bit,” she said. “I knew I wasn’t going to get the angle, so I crossed it as hard as I could, hoping for someone to crash the net.”
That someone was Vivian Cole.
“I was thinking I have to make this. I have to make it,” she said.
Cole did exactly that, tying the game and giving Ovid-Elsie a shot of confidence with 24:06 remaining in the half.
But Lake Fenton came right back, with Bella Reitano assisting on a goal by Maclin Perigo at 22:59 and scoring herself with 16:47 remaining to give the Blue Devils a 3-1 lead.
The game was a physical one, with lots of jockeying for position and tempers flaring at times. It hurt Lake Fenton early in the second half, when Morgan Reitano was given a red card for shoving an Ovid-Elsie player while vying for a loose ball.
The Blue Devils didn’t feel the pain at first, controlling the ball even down a player, and Bella Reitano scored on a free kick to make it 4-1 with 32:48 left in the second half.
Then Nash went to work, scoring less than two minutes later, and again with 11:22 remaining to cut the Lake Fenton lead to 4-3.
But the Blue Devils struck almost immediately again, making it 5-3 on a goal by Aubrey Fray less than a minute later. Nash scored on an assist from Cole with 7:06 remaining, but the Marauders could not get the equalizer.
Lake Fenton advanced to a regional semifinal on Tuesday against host Williamston.
The Marauders (14-5) have most of the core of their team returning next season, but Thelen talked only about the team whose tenure had just ended.
“I couldn’t be more proud of them,” he said. “They won a lot, but, more than that, they had fun. It was a blast to be a part of.”
Division 3 District Final at Durand
LAKE FENTON 5, OVID-ELSIE 4
Ovid-Elsie 1 3 — 4
Lake Fenton 3 2 — 5
LF: Morgan Reitano (Bella Reitano), 26:58.
O-E: Vivian Cole (Josie Nash), 24:06.
LF: Maclin Perigo (B.Reitano), 22:59
LF: B.Reitano (Aubrey Fray), 16:47
LF: B.Reitano (free kick), 32:48
OE: Nash (Madison Cunningham), 30:57.
OE: Nash (Kaylee Sutliff), 11:22.
LF: Fray (Mackenzie Moore), 10:33.
OE: Nash (Cole), 7:06
Shots on Goal: Lake Fenton 14, Ovid-Elsie 6.
Goaltending: Lake Fenton (Hellebuyck, 2 saves); Ovid-Elsie (Kusnier, 9 saves).
Records: Lake Fenton 12-5-3, Ovid-Elsie 14-5.