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October 30, 2012

Trip to regional final sets new standard for Walled Lake Central soccer

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

It may have been a long, stressful bus ride heading to the game, but it was two hours of pure celebration on the way home.

“We’re having a good time right now,” Walled Lake Central soccer coach Joel Sharpe said Oct. 23 as he and his guys made their way home from Midland High. “We’re enjoying every moment of this.”

And with good reason.

The Vikings made the long trip north to take on Traverse City Central in a Division 1 regional semifinal and emerged with a 1-0 overtime victory, setting a new standard, as far as the program is concerned.

“This means so much to everyone right now,” Sharpe said of the win, which pushed Central to its first regional final in program history. “I’ve been coaching here for 16 years, and the program’s been here 30 years. To coach the school I played for, and take things this far and make the history we have, is super cool.”

The Vikings faced Grand Blanc High Oct. 25 at Troy High for the right to move on to the state semifinals.

The regional final was played after press time. The D-1 semi in the Vikings’ half of the draw is set for 6 p.m. Oct. 31 at Lake Orion High.

“There’s quite a buzz right now within the soccer program,” Sharpe said. “We feel like we’ve really added to a great tradition here. We’ve represented the past players well, all the while setting a new standard for teams in the future.”

Against Traverse City Central, the game was scoreless through regulation and then through the first 10-minute overtime. Roughly one minute into the second OT, Mark Gjura found the back of the net.

WLC clamped down on defense and held on from there.

The Vikings reached the regional round after beating Walled Lake Northern 2-1 in the final of the West Bloomfield district. Central beat Waterford Mott 2-0 in the semifinal after drawing a bye in the opener.

“We’ve had our ups and downs, but this has been an absolutely great season,” Sharpe said. The regional win upped his team’s record to 13-6-2 at press time. “I’ve got kids who’ve been here for three and four years that have been building to this moment. We’re having fun with it right now.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.