Brighton trounces Hartland, moves closer to KLAA West title
HARTLAND — Entering the week, the No. 7 Brighton girls soccer team knew it needed three wins to claim the KLAA West division title. After demolishing both Howell on Tuesday and then Hartland on Thursday night, the Bulldogs now need only a tie.
Even though that game comes against No. 8 Grand Blanc, the ‘Dogs are in an excellent position heading into the division finale Tuesday vs. the Bobcats. And they can thank a stellar second half for that in a 4-0 win at Hartland.
“First half, I thought we played well for the first 20 minutes,” said Brighton coach Chris Stevanovic, whose team took a 1-0 lead on MacCulley Barry’s goal eight minutes into the contest. “Then we got a little lazy defensively in the midfield. Hartland kept possession for a while and had some dangerous balls, but luckily didn’t get any good shots.”
As has been the case many times this season, the Bulldogs followed up a decent first 40 minutes with an exceptional final 40, closing the game with three goals to pick up the gigantic victory on their rival’s home field.
After halftime, Brighton regrouped in the midfield to thwart Hartland’s attack and send the ball back up the field to the Bulldogs’ talented forwards.
“Our halftime message was to just get back defensively and to stop being lazy,” Stevanovic said. “And we really worked hard in the second half. As soon as we won a ball in the midfield, it went to a forward and that put (Hartland’s) back line under pressure.”
The consistent pressure on the Eagles’ defenders forced them into mistakes.
That’s where Emma Gould capitalized.
The junior launched a pair of beautiful free kicks toward the net from about 20 yards out and watched both of them touch the back of the net. The Bulldogs took control of the game, leading 3-0 less than 15 minutes into the second half.
“Man, the first was ripped,” Stevanovic said. “From my angle, it looked like the goalkeeper had no chance. It was just a great, powerful shot. The second goal, no joke, was the exact same way. I think the sun was in the goalkeeper’s eyes, and Emma took advantage.”
Alexis Shatrau made it 4-0 in the waning minutes, and Brighton concluded the week outscoring two of its local rivals by a total of 8-0. It’s safe to say the Bulldogs are red hot going into their biggest game of the season Tuesday.
The Bulldogs will be going for their third KLAA West title in four seasons, and they would enjoy getting some revenge after the Bobcats stole the crown away in 2016 by one point.
They need only a tie to do it but don’t expect Brighton to enter the game with that mindset.
“We’re playing to win,” Stevanovic said. “That was the message at the end of the game. They’re coming to our home field. We’re not going to sit back for the tie. We’re going to come out and play our style no matter what.”