MASON – Just one month again, Mason soccer sat with a 2-11-1 record and a roster with just six junior or senior members – the rest being a rag tag group of sophomores and freshmen with no varsity experience.
By the time Thursday night came around, Mason was rolling, having won five of it’s last seven – most recently a 2-1 win over Chelsea in the district semifinals.
Mason now faced off against Pinckney – a 13-2-1 club who went undefeated on it’s way to an SEC White regular season title. But it was nothing Mason hadn’t seen before, given the strength of it’s non-conference slate.
“It was planned from the beginning, and it was a priority for us as a program to take a young squad and put them into the fire of playing great teams and great programs and hopefully by the end of it be healthy and competitive,” Mason coach Jacob Derby said. “It paid off, and it’s all the kids. They put in the work, they executed and they won the game.”
After battling to a 1-1 draw in regulation, it took Mason just three minutes into extra time to retake the lead. The Bulldogs had numbers on a rush, and the ball landed at the feet of junior midfielder Keegan Betts, who settled it and took a shot that went just out of the reach of Pinckney’s goalie before hitting the crossbar and coming down past the goal line.
Mason’s defense locked in behind center backs Bryce Pierpoint and Alex Palmer, and the Bulldogs went on to celebrate a 2-1 win in extra time to claim it’s first district title since 2015.
“District titles is something that we strive for every single year and it’s something that we wanted and worked for, and this group has been through a lot,” Derby said. “We’ve challenged them on the field and off the field, and they fought through everything and they were able to step up tonight and close out a super dangerous and talented Pinckney team.”
After being the aggressor for most of the scoreless first half, Mason broke through first as forward Mendi Rexhepi made a move down the side and delivered a perfect cross to junior midfielder Lucas Nay, who buried it in the net.
Nay had hit the crossbar just a few minutes prior to scoring.
“It felt great to finish that one, and it was a great pass from my teammate,” Nay said. “That’s what we needed at the time to get a big goal. We’re young, but we showed them what a young team can do and we’re only going to get better.”
Pinckney got it’s equalizer with just under seven minutes remaining, with a loose ball working it’s way through the box, off the goalkeeper’s hands, and pounced on by Tyler Beckwith, who finished into an empty net.
For the Pirates, it was bittersweet as it looked to capture it’s first district title since it’s only one in 1999. It had been nine years since Pinckney had even made it to the district finals.
“It was a tough game, I mean both teams were amazing and it was special to watch,” Pinckney coach Sean Grace said. “Some bounces and some other things just didn’t go our way. The guys we have on the team today, they were amazing to watch and they grew tremendously since when they were freshmen. They earned to be in this spot and they deserve it, just unfortunate it couldn’t go our way.”
Pinckney finishes with a 13-3-1 record, while Mason (8-13-1) will play Dearborn Divine Child (9-9-1) in the regional semifinals. That game is scheduled for Tuesday, October 25 at 7pm at Divine Child High School.
Contact Nathaniel Bott at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @Nathaniel_Bott
This article originally appeared on Lansing State Journal: Mason boys soccer captures district title in overtime win over Pinckney