It sure didn’t take long for the emotions to hit Lily Solek.
Saturday marked exactly seven years ago to the day that Solek’s older sister, Emily, scored the lone goal to give Stoney Creek High School a 1-0 win in the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s 2016 Division 1 girls soccer state championship game.
Emily Solek scored that goal on her 17th birthday.
Lily Solek was in the stands for that game, and on Saturday, she returned to the same field for the first time at Michigan State University since her sister’s goal.
This time she was a senior on this year’s Stoney Creek team that was competing for the Division 1 state title against Hudsonville.
Emily Solek died in a 2020 car crash while a student at the University of Michigan, but make no mistake, her presence was definitely felt.
“It was so surreal,” Lily Solek said. “We stepped off of the bus to get on a little walk through campus. “Purple was her favorite color and there were purple flowers right when we got off the bus laying on the ground.”
Then, Solek said she went past the spot on the field where a family photo was taken with her siblings and parents back in 2016.
Another older sister of Lily’s, Meghan Solek, was a freshman starter on the 2016 championship team.
“I was so short,” Lily said with a laugh in reference to the photo.
On what would’ve been Emily Solek’s 24th birthday, she was also on the mind of Stoney Creek’s players, who wrote her initials (E-V-S) on their wrists for the game.
If all that weren’t enough, the game with Hudsonville had a storybook ending for Stoney Creek and its supporters.
Stoney Creek appeared to be headed for defeat, trailing 1-0 to Hudsonville with under 10 minutes left.
But then Solek’s longtime friend and the reigning Miss Soccer winner in the state, senior Lilley Bosley, went to work.
Bosley tied the game on a goal with under nine minutes left in the game, and then netted the game-winner with 1:49 remaining to give Stoney Creek a 2-1 lead.
The Cougars held on to win the second state championship for the program, joining the 2016 team as champions.
It was as if Emily Solek was guiding them through those last 10 minutes.
“We played this game in honor of her and her family,” Bosley said. “It was really special.”
Solek said she would constantly have backyard battles with Emily and her other sisters, which she said shaped her into the player and person she is now.
“I never won,” Solek said with a laugh. “They never went easy on me.”
On the field afterward during the celebration, Solek pointed to her No. 8 jersey and said that it correlated with what would have been Emily’s 24th birthday.
“Two times four is eight, so that was the lucky number,” Solek said.
Of note, Emily Solek also wore No. 8 during her playing days, and that number was recently retired. However, Stoney Creek brought it back out of retirement this year for Lily to wear.
Now, Solek will follow in Emily’s footsteps and attend the University of Michigan, but her family will never forget the day on Saturday when she followed in her footsteps and also Meghan’s by becoming a state champion on the same exact field.
“She’s with me here today,” Solek said.