VICKSBURG — The standard has been established.
Any future successful Pinckney soccer team, boys or girls, will be measured against the 2023 girls squad.
They were simply the best.
The fifth-ranked Pirates’ special season ended with a 6-1 loss to 11th-ranked Plainwell in a Division 2 regional championship game Friday at Vicksburg High School.
Pinckney allowed as many goals in one game as it had in its previous 14 contests, but this outcome won’t define the Pirates.
They will be looked back upon as the first girls team to win a district championship and the first soccer team at Pinckney to reach a regional championship game. The 1999 boys team lost in the regional semifinals to East Lansing, 5-0, after winning its only district crown.
“Obviously when you end it like this, it always hurts, but there’s always going to be an end,” Pinckney coach Sean Grace said. “This season was amazing. We went further than any Pinckney soccer team ever did. This team goes down as the best, and they deserve it.”
Pinckney came into the game with a 15-1-1 record and a 14-game unbeaten streak (13-0-1) since losing 4-0 to Rochester, which ended the regular season ranked No. 1 in Division 1. The Pirates allowed only 10 goals coming into Friday’s game, with only two being scored in the previous 10 games. They had posted four straight shutouts.
Included in that unbeaten streak were victories over No. 9 Richland Gull Lake and No. 10 Linden, which will play in the state semifinals.
The players who have been on the team for three seasons have helped the program go 42-9-3 during that time.
“It’s definitely something that feels unreal,” said junior goalie Peyton Delongchamp, a three-year starter. “It’s a great feeling to know you’re making your school proud and making history for them.
“I’ve spent three years with the majority of these girls. I wouldn’t want to spend it with anybody else.”
The Pirates could be back in the hunt for district and regional championships again next season, returning 12 players from a roster of 16. But Friday marked the end of successful careers for four seniors, who left their mark on the program.
“It’s crazy to make history for my last year here,” said senior defender Kailey Lambert, who will play for Siena Heights. “It was almost like a buildup all the way. I was out sophomore year (with an injury), so then I got to come back junior year, and to end it off with a great senior year.”
Pinckney fell behind 2-0 on goals by Kayla Baar and Alayna Eldred, but Lambert made it a 2-1 game when she scored on a 40-yard free kick with 2:48 left in the first half, just 57 seconds after Eldred’s goal.
“I’m pretty good from a certain distance,” Lambert said. “When I get a little closer, I tend to hit it over, but that was my perfect spot. We were trying to tell our team to keep our heads up, we were down only one. That goal was literally in three seconds. You can change the game in three seconds.”
The Pirates applied pressure early in the second half, but couldn’t come away with the equalizer.
From there, the floodgates opened for the Trojans.
Baar scored with 27:19 left, Gaby Zugel with 24:05 left, Alex Thornton with 14:08 left and Eldred with 9:35 to go to turn a close game into a rout.
“I knew we needed to get a couple, so we had to make some adjustments,” Grace said. “Not a lot went our way this game; it happens. It was a great season. A lot went well throughout the season; it just didn’t come together today.”
Plainwell won its first regional championship since 2012, extending its unbeaten streak to 18 games (17-0-1) since a 1-2-2 start. The Trojans have allowed only nine goals this season.
“We have a lot of great kids playing, good clubs as a feeder program to us,” Plainwell coach Garry Snyder said. “That helps. We’re pulling it together at the right time. We struggled early on; that’s a known fact. But we’ve got everyone together on the same page. It’s been fantastic.”
Plainwell will face East Grand Rapids in the state semifinals at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Holland High School. The winner will play Grosse Pointe North or Linden for the Division 2 championship at 4 p.m. Friday at Michigan State University.
Contact Bill Khan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BillKhan.
This article originally appeared on Livingston Daily: Season ends for Pinckney's best soccer team in regional final