Gielczyk: Ludington Looks Back on Historic Season
Ludington’s boys soccer team made history with its 5-1 win over Lakes 8 Activities Conference foe Muskegon Orchard View in the MHSAA Division 3 regional final at Clare.
It was the first time an Orioles’ boys soccer team had won back-to-back regional titles and advanced to the final four in the state tournament two years in a row.
Although the Orioles’ magical run ended with a loss to Hudsonville Unity Christian in the semifinal round, it couldn’t take any of the glitter off this year’s accomplishments for a team that had to do some retooling after heavy graduation losses from 2017.
The Orioles lost seven or eight starters off last year’s team that lost to Flint Powers Catholic, 4-2 but returned 10 seniors who were seasoned in post-season competition and thus harbored great expectations for this season.
“I think we were very pleased and very excited to make it all the way back to the semifinals,” Ludington coach Kris Anderson said. “There were some players who were in role positions last year that stepped up.
“There were some young players that joined our team this year and really stepped up in some positions. It was very encouraging how we built a strong team again for this year, considering who we lost from last year’s team.”
Anderson also felt the schedule helped the Orioles, too. Playing a quality programs like West Michigan Christian and Orchard View each twice during the regular season in conference competition were good proving grounds.
Ludington, which finished 19-6-1 this year, also went against perennial power Elk Rapids and playing downstate in a Division 2 tournament against Stevensville Lakeshore also gave the Orioles some looks at different teams with alternate philosophies on offense and defense.
“Our schedule really helped us get better, learn what our weaknesses and how, too, to improve on those,” Anderson added. “And, also, we were able to identify what our strengths were, and tried to play toward those strengths.
“I would say one of our strengths was, we had pretty good speed kind of all over the field, from our back line all the way up to our forwards. We were especially strong playing the ball out wide, either to our forwards making wide runs or to our outside mids and getting around the other team’s back line and creating big crossing and scoring opportunities.”
Ludington will have some holes to fill next season, with graduation taking away five starters, including Belgian foreign exchange student Maxime Greiner in goal, among 10 departing seniors in all.
Even the ones that weren’t in the Orioles’ starting lineup were key reserves, and played big roles throughout the year.
The pair of biggest shoes Ludington has to fill belong to Noah Peterson. He was the Orioles’ center mid all season, and according to Anderson has been one of their top three players the past three years.
“Last year, he was our center defender and really kind of directed our defense last year,” Anderson said. “This year, we moved him to center mid and he was a difference-maker for us.
“There was one game where we tried playing him at center back, we just felt like that was going to be better for us in that game, and we couldn’t control the midfield. Then when we put him there in the midfield, it made a difference in our team. He’s going to be a big loss.”
Another is going to be outside mid Will Flewelling, who scored three goals for a hat trick in the regional final and was one of the team’s leading scorers on the season. He was also a great leader. Center back Sam Bandstra is also going to be tough to replace.
Right now, Anderson is looking at sophomore Kyle Wendt as next year’s starting goalkeeper. Wendt started there as a freshman and played in the state final. But there is junior who spent a little time in goal this year and could be another option next year.
Ludington has established itself as one of the better teams in Division 3, and has the talent to make deep post-season runs. The Orioles’ status has also served to push them to work even harder to maintain it.
With what the Orioles have coming back, and coming up from the junior varsity squad, they’re hoping to be just as competitive next year and make another run at winning a state title.
Greg Gielczyk is an award-winning sports columnist and sportwriter who worked a total 36 years — interrupted for an 18-month period from 1997-99 — at the Manistee News Advocate as sports editor until 2006 and is now retired. He currently is a freelance sportswriter for the Ludington Daily News. Gielczyk can be reached at email@example.com for story ideas.