Not Like Us: Lilianna David's two-goal performance guides Gladiators to 3-1 win

May 8—TRAVERSE CITY — No one in the Lake Michigan Conference has been like Traverse City St. Francis this season.

The Gladiators' defense on the pitch has guided St. Francis to the level of success the varsity soccer program has dreamed of.

"Our defense is awesome," St. Francis head coach Scott Conway said smiling, after defeating Charlevoix 3-1 on Tuesday to move to 10-0-1 overall.

St. Francis' defense and sophomore goalkeeper Paisleigh Upshaw has held teams to seven shutouts and has allowed just four goals this season.

The Gladiators' win Tuesday puts them at 8-0 in the Lake Michigan Conference, inching them closer to a conference title for the first time since 2010. Just two conference games remain for St. Francis — against Grayling and Harbor Springs.

This season marks the last season for the Lake Michigan Conference as six of the eight LMC schools are heading to the Northern Shores Conference in the fall, ending the nearly 30-year run of the LMC.

For several seasons, Elk Rapids and Boyne City controlled the LMC. This season, the Gladiators picked up their first season sweep against the Elks in over a decade and swept Boyne City for the first time since 2017.

Elk Rapids shared the LMC with Boyne City in 2021 and has sat at the top of the conference ever since.

"This win feels great, especially being the first year since we've seen this has happened," junior Lilianna David said. "It's been exciting to see all of our hard work going into a good thing."

Rain or shine, the Gladiators didn't let the heavy rainfall at Keystone Soccer Complex ruin their chances of clinching a conference berth.

The Glads' defense set the tone in the first half by making it challenging for the Rayders to produce any offense. Rayders head coach Sean Simney credited the St. Francis players for their communication that made is difficult for his squad to find any rhythm on offense.

The defense and steady ball control allowed the Gladiators' offense to click early with David tacking in a goal just nine minutes into the first half to lead 1-0. The Rayders' defense held the Gladiators to one goal for a chunk of the first half until David struck again with under two minutes to play.

"For starters, they play organized and talk to each other," Simney said of St. Francis. "You can tell they give direction and no one is going to be offended if they are being screamed at to come back or mark."

St. Francis didn't waste time in the second half to get on the board again as sophomore Riley Collins scored to go ahead 3-0 with 39 minutes left to play in the 40-minute second half.

The Rayders had several chances to score in the second half, but the heavy rains caused footing issues for Charlevoix.

Charlevoix senior Ava Boss gave the Rayders their only goal with under 12 minutes to play in the final half.

"We've been having a hard time getting on the board, and we finally did it against a team that has kept teams off the board," Simney said. "Finding a way to get the ball in the back of the net is always good."

The Gladiators prevented the Rayders from scoring in their 2-0 win in the first meeting. St. Francis' young squad hasn't let the moment they're in get too big. The Gladiators have 11 underclassmen and nine upperclassmen.

"They're understanding the speed of the game," Conway said on the underclassmen improvements. "That was the biggest thing for us was getting them adjusted to the speed and not holding onto the ball for so long. They have to play quick."

The Gladiators look to continue their winning streak at Leland on Wednesday, and the Rayders (4-4, 2-3 Lake Michigan) travel to Boyne City on Thursday.