DEWITT, Mich. (WLNS) – The DeWitt Panthers saw a golden opportunity for redemption last week and took advantage, topping a pair of teams they had lost to earlier in the season en route to the program’s first CAAC Gold Cup title since 2011.
DeWitt’s CAAC Gold Cup championship earned them our 6 Sports Team of the Week honors.
The Panthers were the four seed in the four-team tournament and faced East Lansing in the semifinal game. The Trojans had just beaten the Panthers 4-1 two weeks earlier.
“That added some fuel and we just looked at it as a challenge to kind of redeem ourselves and we talked about, you know, you don’t always get to try to redeem yourself so close to when you get beat by a team,” said head coach Joe Ishraidi. “So it was good to see the guys come out and get the job done.”
“No one expected us to come in and win, especially as the four-seed,” added senior midfielder Joey Farhat. “Especially with our previous past in East Lansing, you know it hasn’t been the greatest but on that field I feel like we finally got the result that we deserved.”
The Panthers got their revenge with a 3-2 victory over the Trojans to advance to the CAAC Gold Cup championship. Holt waited for them in the championship game, a team that had beaten DeWitt 1-0 early in the season. Ishraidi said he feels the first game against Holt actually marked a turning point for his team.
“The first time we played Holt we felt we needed to make some adjustments and we did and the guys stepped into their roles,” he said. “So we’ve been on a good trajectory since [then].”
DeWitt flipped the script in the second meeting, topping Holt 1-0 to bring home the CAAC Gold Cup trophy.
“It’s huge because the cup gives you a little taste of what win or go home is like,” Ishraidi said. “So we played some really quality opponents and the guys banded together and saw what it took to really dig in and get a result when it’s not always going to be pretty, it’s just going to take effort and guys willing to sacrifice for the team.”
DeWitt is riding a five-game winning streak into the MHSAA playoffs and will be seeking the program’s fifth straight district title. The Panthers have a bye in the first round of districts, so they do not begin their postseason run until next Tuesday.
With over a week off from game action, DeWitt held its annual alumni game on Wednesday night. Ishraidi said he values the alumni game because building a family feel to the DeWitt soccer program is important to him, and there’s no doubt the Panther family is proud of what the team accomplished last week.
“We really want to make a family program where guys want to come back and guys are still invested and interested,” Ishraidi said. “And actually, you know, as it relates to the cup, so many alums and parents of alums have reached out and said congratulations, basically saying that they keep track of what’s going on. So that was really cool.”