Late first half goal lifts Essexville Garber girls soccer past Regina, into state championship game

By: Jason Carmel Davis | Online Only | Published June 11, 2019

 Warren Regina junior Katy Feskorn, right, battles for possession of the ball with Grosse Ile High's Rozlyn Mehall during a regional round win. The Saddlelites fell to Essexville Garber in a June 11 Division 3 state semifinal.

Warren Regina junior Katy Feskorn, right, battles for possession of the ball with Grosse Ile High's Rozlyn Mehall during a regional round win. The Saddlelites fell to Essexville Garber in a June 11 Division 3 state semifinal.

Photo by Sean Work

HOWELL — Essexville Garber junior midfielder Natelle Vantol said prior to putting her foot to a free kick late in the second half that she was thinking of her grandfather, Kenneth, who passed away during her sophomore year of high school.

“I was just thinking, ‘grandpa, you’re watching’ and I put my foot to it,” Vantol said. “My grandpa loved soccer. He came to as many of my games as he could. This is just a great moment.”

That shot, which got over the outstretched hands of Warren Regina goalkeeper Olivia DiSanto, put the Dukes up 1-0 with 2:05 left in the half and proved to be the score that would put Essexville Garber in the Division 3 state title game.

Garber’s 1-0 win over Regina puts the Dukes in a matchup with Grand Rapids South Christian set for 1 p.m. June 14 at Michigan State University.

Garber (22-0-2) continues a season that each round has seen the program win its first postseason title of any kind. Prior to this spring, the Dukes hadn’t ever won even a district championship.

Garber coach Troy Stewart is in his 16th, and final, season with the program. He said the team has come a long way since going 0-19 in its first season.

“This is unbelievable,” Stewart said. “That goal Natelle scored — that’s her shot. She hits that shot about 95 percent of the time. She’s a great player. She’s solid.”

Regina coach Stefano Moraccini said the shot off of Vantol’s foot at the angle it took would have been tough for a lot of goalkeepers to get to. The score came on the only shot on goal the Saddlelites allowed all game.

Regina (13-5-3) had a good chance to tie late, but a shot clanged off the right post with 3:07 left in regulation to keep the game at 1-0 in favor of Garber.

“Our defense was able to hold them to no goals outside of that one,” Moraccini said. “But you can’t win if you can’t score. We played a good game. We controlled it for much of it but just because you control a game — that doesn’t mean you’ll win.

“We had some chances. We just didn’t follow up on our shots. We had to rebound better.”

Vantol credited Regina for its solid play. She called the game clean and hard fought.

The game signals the end of the prep careers of five Regina seniors — Chloe Scott, Haley Iacona, Riley Bobowski, Mariana Muskovac and Brooke Marcoux. The team has 20 players eligible to return next season.

Moraccini after the state semifinal said he wanted to send that group out on a better note.

“It’s tough to end the season like this,” Moraccini said. “We wanted to win here. We wanted to play in that championship game for them. It just wasn’t our day.”