MIDLAND — Linden is a team on a mission.
The Eagles, ranked second in the state and with a sterling 25-1 record, looked every bit like a squad with state title aspirations, defeating Petoskey 2-0 in a Division 2 soccer regional semifinal on Tuesday at Midland Community Stadium.
“We’ve been working on this team the last several years to get to this point,” said Linden head coach Kevin Fiebernitz, a veteran coach who had success as the head coach at powerhouse Flint Powers prior to taking over at Linden. “We’re happy. In the first half it felt like a feeling out process. We kind of carried play a bit. Normally we go at people hard. I told the guys to be a lot more loosy-goosy and just play.”
The Eagles controlled possession most of the night, but didn’t get on the board until the 34th minute on a goal by Kevin Wright. They then scored a backbreaking goal nine seconds into the half when Zach Bakos got the ball off the opening kickoff to the half and buried it past Petoskey keeper Nathaniel Reed.
“The was the worst possible start to the second half,” said Petoskey coach Zach Jonker.
The Northmen (14-9-2), looking to repeat as regional champions, struggled to get anything going against a tough Linden defense.
“They put us in a lot of pressure,” said Jonker. “I don’t know if we ever put together five or six passes the whole game.”
“Our best offense is our best defense,” said Fiebernitz.
Jonker said any question of whether the Eagles would not take the Northmen seriously and would be looking ahead to the regional final were quickly put to rest.
“These guys were all about business tonight,” Jonker said. “There is no shame in losing to them. They were better than us tonight.”