Strpko’s late goal lifts Big Rapids over Tri County in pivotal CSAA soccer match

CSAA: Big Rapids’ Lance Strpko (10) looks to beat a Tri County defender to the ball on Wednesday in a Central State Activities Association matchup. (Pioneer photos/Ryan Zuke)

CSAA: Big Rapids’ Lance Strpko (10) looks to beat a Tri County defender to the ball on Wednesday in a Central State Activities Association matchup. (Pioneer photos/Ryan Zuke)

BIG RAPIDS — Big Rapids’ boys soccer team knew it had to beat Grant and Tri County this week if it wanted a chance at claiming at least a share of the Central State Activities Association title.

Task completed.

The Cardinals defeated Grant in penalty kicks on Monday and beat visiting Tri County 1-0 Wednesday.

Both Grant and Tri County beat Big Rapids earlier this season.

“I’m very proud of the boys,” Cardinals’ coach Justin Fox said. “We knew it was going to be difficult. “Our season is playing out pretty much like it did last year. We lost those same matches earlier in the season and regrouped and got our mindset right. We knew if we wanted any share of the conference championship, we needed to win these games.”

Sophomore Lance Strpko fired a shot into the top right corner of the net from just outside the box with 20 minutes remaining.

“It felt really good watching it bend off my foot and into the top corner,” he said.

Dylan Matulis scored four goals in Tri County’s 4-2 victory in the previous meeting this season, but the Cardinals were able to contain him Wednesday.

“Matulis is just a fantastic player,” Fox said. “We wanted to play good defense the first game we played him, and then in the first half, we weren’t as focused and he scored all four in the first half. We made the adjustments at halftime at that game, but it didn’t matter. We knew coming in we were going to have to work on marking him, talked about it in practice that had to be our focus.”

Senior goalkeeper Ryan Mackall earned the shutout.

“He did amazing,” Strpko said. “He was on top of his game tonight. We needed those saves. You’re a lot more confident with him in the net. You know you can trust him. He’s always there when you need him.”

Big Rapids has three CSAA matches remaining and needs Grant to lose at least one match for a shot at a share of the conference title.

The Cardinals host Greenville on Monday in a nonconference game.

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Posted by Ryan Zuke

Ryan is the sports editor for the Big Rapids Pioneer, covering local prep sports and Ferris State athletics. He can be contacted at (231) 592-8363 or rzuke@pioneergroup.com.

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