Petito’s late goal propels Jackson Lumen Christi into state championship

WATERFORD, Mich. (WLNS) – Jackson Lumen Christi scored two goals in the final two and a half minutes to complete a 3-1 comeback win over Auburn Hills Oakland Christian in Tuesday night’s Div. 4 State Semifinals. The win sends the Titans to the state championship game for the first time since 2000.

Oakland Christian junior Jessica Reyes scored the first goal of the game less than 10 minutes in.

The 1-0 score held throughout the first half, but the Titans found a way to tie things up early in the second half when Paige Lefere scored a sensational goal straight off a corner kick.

Over the course of the next 30 minutes, both teams had multiple opportunities to take the lead, but Lumen Christi goalkeeper Izzy Ermatinger came up with a couple of huge diving saves, and on the other side, Oakland Christian defender Alexa Daulton cleared a ball right off the goal line to preserve the tie.

The game seemed destined to head to overtime, but with just over two minutes to play, everything changed.

Lumen Christi’s Brooke Lefere played a ball to the outside and her teammate Codi Ruge won the race to it, sliding it across toward the center of the field, where the Titans’ Paityn Petito had an inside step on her defender and fired the ball into the back of the net.

Head coach Blake Newman-Gillig said she had already started preparing for overtime when she saw the play developing that led to Petito’s goal.

“Overtimes can be brutal and so I was mentally preparing for that, like what adjustments am I going to make?” said Newman-Gillig. “Who am I going to put where to try and get the most out of the last 20 minutes we were going to have? And then absolutely I saw the opportunity! It was almost like it was happening in slow motion and I knew that she was going to finish that ball. She’s been absolutely a master at placement all this postseason. So I was super confident but very excited!”

“It just feels great that I was able to do that for my team and that I was able to finish that,” added Petito.

The goal gave Lumen Christi the lead with just 2:03 to play.

Just over a minute later, the Titans put the game on ice when Brooke Lefere put home the rebound after a shot from Ruge hit the crossbar.

The players jumped into each other’s arms in celebration when the clock hit zero, as Lumen Christi had turned a 1-0 halftime deficit into a 3-1 victory and punched its ticket to Friday’s state championship game.

The Titans’ youth makes their run to the state championship game all the more impressive. The team has just three seniors on the roster and 11 of the 17 players are underclassmen.

“Most of our team is underclassmen and they’ve done a really good job at stepping up and taking on a bigger role,” said Petito. “Our seniors have done such a good job at team bonding and building trust in our team and us all being able to rely on each other and trust each other to do our jobs. So I think that’s been huge.”

Jackson Lumen Christi will face Kalamazoo Christian, the defending Div. 4 State Champions, in the championship game on Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. at DeMartin Stadium on Michigan State’s campus.

The Titans and Comets played in the regular season in early May, with the Comets winning 2-1.

Jackson Lumen Christi has a record of 13-7 this season and Kalamazoo Christian is 18-4-2.

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