HOWELL — The No. 2-ranked Brighton girls soccer team survived an epic one-goal dual with Hartland in 2016 to claim a district championship. That win would propel the Bulldogs to regionals and, eventually, the quarterfinals.
With pretty much the entire crew back for another go in 2017, the Bulldogs met the Eagles in the district title game for the second time in as many years. This one, however, was not nearly as close.
Another year wiser and another year experienced, the Bulldogs took it to a surging Eagles squad from the onset at Parker Middle School in Howell, earning a 4-0 shutout victory to once again end Hartland’s season and head into regionals firing on all cylinders.
“We’re very confident right now,” Brighton coach Chris Stevanovic said after the game. “We hit a turning point in the second half against Okemos the other day, and I really think that stuck with us moving forward.”
Brighton scored three goals in the second half against Okemos. It maintained that impressive attack on the Howell turf vs. Hartland, generating a goal just three minutes into the match.
Meghan McCord was the one responsible for putting it in the net and getting the Bulldogs off to the fast start they so often preach about. Emma Shinsky then scored her first of two goals on the day with five minutes left before the halftime break.
“The message at halftime was that the next goal would change or decide the game,” Stevanovic said. “And we needed to get it.”
It didn’t take long for Brighton to do just that. Coming out of the break, MacCulley Barry scored off a corner kick and Shinsky added a fourth goal for good measure just seven minutes in.
There wasn’t much the Eagles could do from there.
It was an aggravating game for a Hartland team that had been scorching hot, offensively, in the final weeks of the season. However, it just couldn’t get anything going Saturday, as the Bulldogs’ swarming defense was there every time to thwart Hartland’s attack.
Of course, there are worse ways to go out than losing to the second-ranked team in Division 1, a team that came so close to being in the final four last year, and one that believes it has the ability to get there and perhaps further this season.
“The girls got a lot of experience last year,” Stevanovic said. “And now they believe they can make a legitimate run.”