SOUTH LYON — South Lyon East is having a historic season thus far and can add caputring The Claw Cup trophy to their list of accomplishments this season.
The Cougars defeated South Lyon, 3-0, Tuesday to win The Claw Cup which is given annually to the winner of the cross-town rivalry game.
“This has been our best season so far,” South Lyon East senior Julia Palushaj said. “We got a new coach (Jon Cadwallader), that really helped. Now we’re playing really as a team. Now we’re playing actual soccer. This is the most games we’ve ever won in a season so it feels pretty amazing.”
East improves to 10-4-2 and 3-4-2 in the loaded KLAA Central. The Cougars are ranked No. 3 in the state in Division 2 in the latest rankings by the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association.
Palushaj scored two goals for East, both in the second half. The first came with 30:13 left in the second half off an assist from Rachel Jankowiak.
Palushaj scored her second goal with 4:54 left off an assist from Jenny Caudill.
“My first goal it was just from a cross,” Palushaj said. “I just crashed the net and my body just hit it in. You have to follow every ball because you never know when it’s going to go in.
“My second goal I was just taking it down the center and I just cut it to my left foot. I looked up, I saw the goal and I just hit it.”
Palushaj has been a huge part of the Cougars offensive attack all season. South Lyon’s game plan was to slow Palushaj down, but Cadwallader made some adjustments at halftime to get her going.
“She’s one of the players that teams try to game plan against to take out of it,” Cadwallader said. “I thought they did a good job in the first half. We moved her a bit in the second just to make sure she can get her touches on the ball because she’s really a huge part of our game. She’s a great target, does really good in possession. The two goals she scored were great. The first one off the corner and the second one off that turn and shoot. It’s something she’s done for us all year.”
Jankowiak netted the game-winning goal when she scored off a nice pass from Sydney O’Donnell with 30:24 left in the first half.
The shutout was East’s 10th of the season. The Cougars held the Lions’ in check for nearly the entire game to earn the shutout.
“Our back four has been fantastic for us all year,” Cadwallader said. “They’re playing in a new system, they’ve never played in a flat four before, but they’ve adjusted extremely well. They’re working really hard. They do a really good job of finding out targets out of the back. You can’t ask for a better back four then we’ve had.”
South Lyon falls to 0-10-2 and 0-8-1 in the KLAA Central with the loss.
Lions coach Brian Elliott felt the team made a few costly mistakes, but gave a solid effort.
“I thought we played pretty strong coming off the bat,” Elliott said. “We came out, we had a good game plan, we were organized as a team. We looked to shut down (Julia Palushaj), we knew that was their biggest threat and Alyssa Toye for our team did a good job of eliminating her pretty much from 80 to 85 percent of the game. But then some silly mistakes in the back and not communicating enough, which has kind of plagued us all season and I think was really our downfall in the end.
“But gotta give it to the seniors for their effort, it was senior night. Sorry to them that we couldn’t get a win for them. It was a good effort. I liked that the girls kept working all the way through the final whistle, which you like to see as a coach.
“We’ve had a really tough season, but it’s made better by the fact that I’ve got a great group of girls here, who continuously support each other, uplift each other. We’ve got some great leadership as well.”