HOLLAND — It did not come easy.
It took four tie-breakers Saturday before a Veronica Compton kick gave the Traverse Bay Blues girls high school rugby team a 32-29 win over Berkley for their fourth consecutive state championship.
“It was insane, absolutely insane,” Blues coach Stephanie Kehrer said. “We’re used to beating teams by a minimum 37 points. Most of our games are 80-something to zero. This one was so stressful. I thought I was going to have a heart attack.”
Regulation ended at 20-20. Two five-minute overtimes did not resolve the outcome so the teams went to a best-of-five penalty kicks. The first series ended in a tie, forcing a second — and that’s where Kingsley’s Compton delivered.
“She missed it first time around,” Kehrer said. “I was a little nervous. I could hardly watch it was so nerve-wracking.”
It was the first time the Blues had been in a situation like that this season.
“Most teams have one kicker on their team and that’s who does the kicking all season,” Kehrer said. “We had to choose five. We looked at our team and asked: ‘Who can kick? Who played soccer?’
“Some said, ‘I think I can do it.’ We said, ‘No, think is not an option here. Who knows they can kick through the uprights? Who has the absolute confidence they will win this game?’”
Berkley had a chance to tie it once again, but its last attempt fell short of the crossbar, much to the relief of Kehrer and the Blues.
“I like winning by a lot,” Kehrer said, laughing. “It’s much easier on my body.”
Nicole Kluth, who attends Traverse City West, was named match MVP.
“She was a beast,” Kehrer said.
Kluth switched positions from back to prop this season and still led the team in scoring, Kehrer said. Kluth had four tries Saturday.
Compton, though, saved the day. After the Berkley scrum half broke through the line and carried the ball over the line for the apparent win late in the game, Compton delivered a blow that knocked the ball away before it could be grounded.
The Blues beat Berkley 45-0 for the state title a year ago. But then Berkley snapped the Blues 37-game winning streak earlier this season, 10-5.
“We had not lost a game in three years,” Kehrer said. “But they were the better team that day.”
The Blues scouted Berkley during a semifinal game the week previous.
“We saw what they were good at and what we needed to do to counteract their style,” Kehrer said. “We’re really good at adapting to other styles. If we see they’re really successful at one thing, we can coach to stop that. The girls are like sponges. It’s like, ‘OK, tell us what to do and we’ll do it.’”