With only three seniors on its roster, you might think Grand Haven’s varsity girls soccer team is lacking on experience.
That’s not the case.
The fact is, the Buccaneers’ lineup was loaded with sophomores a year ago, so this year’s squad boasts plenty of returning talent, which has coach Cor Damhuis excited for the coming season.
“We have probably the best team we’ve had in quite some time, both as far as starters and our bench,” said Damhuis, whose team pounded Holland Christian on Wednesday, 4-0. “These girls are willing to do the work, and they’re good athletes.”
Courtney Springer, Lydia Weykamp and Belle VanderLaan are the Bucs’ lone seniors.
The junior class includes Faith Platz, Veronica Booth, Lanie Kenny, Roxy Glasser, Emily Sexton, Taylor DeWitt, Claire Borchers, Sydney McLean, Alyssa Hayward, Rachel VanZytveld and Mallory Beswick.
“Most of these girls were here last year, and a majority of them were sophomores,” Damhuis said. “And the nice thing about a bulk of these players is that they can play multiple positions.”
Newcomers to the team include freshmen Hannah Kenny and Mya Copado and sophomores Sawyer Overway and Ali Donselaar.
Damhuis has a dilemma in goal, as returning varsity starter Platz is battling for the starting spot with Booth, who started on the JV team last spring.
“They will both play,” Damhuis said. “What I’ve told them is, they’ll battle for the position and playing time will be earned on the practice field.”
Lanie Kenny, McLean, Overway, Glasser, Sexton and VanderLaan will anchor the Bucs’ defense, while DeWitt, Weykamp, Beswick, VanZytveld, Hannah Kenny, Hayward and Donselaar will play in the midfield.
Springer, Borchers and Copado are the Bucs’ most dangerous attackers.
“We can shift several people up to the front line, which is nice,” Damhuis said.
“These girls are willing to work hard, they have good camaraderie, and they have an upbeat attitude. They’re always laughing and having a good time together, which is important.”
The Buccaneers are currently 2-0-1, having beaten Holland Christian and Fruitport while tying Mona Shores.
LAKERS HAVE HIGH EXPECTATIONS
Spring Lake will look to defend its Lakes Eight Conference championship and improve on last year’s state tournament run, which ended with a district finals loss to Reeths-Puffer.
“I’m excited because it’s a mix of new kids and a returning veteran crew,” coach Jeremy Thelen said.
Returning players include seniors Molly Miedema, Leann Latsch, Hailey Pellegrom, Brooke TenBrink and Emily Marine.
Mariada Gezon and Megan Harken are also returning for the Lakers.
Thelen said he’s excited to add several newcomers to the team. MaKenzie Price grew up in Spring Lake, moved to Texas, then moved back to Spring Lake.
Sisters Abby and Courtney Dockery moved to town from Arizona, while Alex Prout transferred to Spring Lake from Grand Haven.
Nora Reed, who played goalie in the state tournament last year after starter Audrey Grey was hurt, returns to play goalie for the Lakers.
Thelen said Latsch is moving to forward this spring, giving the team a dynamic attacker on the forward line.
Harken and Miedema will anchor the Lakers’ midfield, while Pellegrom will be the steadying factor on defense.
“The kids have high expectations,” Thelen said. “They saw what happened with the boys team (which was ranked No. 1 for much of the season this past fall) and they want to be as good. These girls went to regionals two years ago, so their goal is to get back there.
“Obviously, it’s going to take a positive culture, hard work all around, no let-downs, and a few bounces to go your way.”
TROJANS FEATURE YOUNG LINEUP
Fruitport coach Jeannie McClain will field a young team this spring after graduating 11 players off last year’s squad.
Defender Jordan Stanberry, a junior defender, will be one of the Trojans’ pivotal performers this spring. Midfielder Haylie Hanks will be counted on to control things in the middle, while another returning junior, Carly Kryfka, will play midfield and forward.
Tara Champion is a forward who was hurt much of last year but is expected to have a big year, while Jessica Erny and Sydney Nelson are seniors who can play several different positions.
“We don’t have one standout player, but we have a solid team,” McClain said. “A lot of these girls have been together for a while. They connect really well.”
Lauren Maus was pulled up to the varsity team as a freshman last year, while Marissa Hassevoort is a sophomore with unlimited potential.
In goal will be sophomore Monica Holden, who is working with former Trojans’ goalie Lindsey Armstrong to hone her skills.
“She reminds me a lot of Lindsey when she was younger,” McClain said. “She’s a daredevil out there.”
McClain coached many of the current Trojans at the club level or when they were JV players, so there’s a sense of familiarity among the team.
“I’ve been with a lot of these girls for 4-5 years,” she said. “I had them in club before high school, so I know a lot of their personalities, and they know me. We don’t have to get used to each other, so that helps.”
The Trojans’ lone game so far was at Grand Haven before Spring Break. In that contest, Fruitport fell behind 3-0 early on and eventually lost, 3-1.
“We hadn’t been outside as a team to practice,” McClain said. “And we hadn’t played on a full field, so it took us the first 25 minutes just to acclimate ourselves to playing outside on a full field, playing on their turf.
“After that, we held them scoreless, and we scored one, so I was happy with the outcome.”
WMC TRYING TO MATCH POSTSEASON SUCCESS
The WMC girls soccer team will once again be young.
“With only three seniors, we will have a difficult time matching those teams packed with veteran players,” coach David Hulings said.
Julie Merz, Courtne Stuk and Alli Langeland will captain and lead the squad.
“Last year, we set the bar quite high, and it will be tough to repeat a semifinal appearance again,” Hulings said. “We do, however, have some great returning players to join these three seniors.”
Junior Mykayla Dennison and sophomore Alexys Riksen are two strong players coming off a great tournament run last year.
Sophomores Alyssa Wright and Lindsey Johnson (Keeper) also return from last year’s team that reached the Division 4 state semifinals.
Juniors Katie South and Sarah Hughes also return.
“Although we are young, we have a good group of freshmen to add to those from last year,” Hulings said. “Transfer player and sophomore Emma Rudd and freshmen Jessica Kinnucan and Mikaela Erickson should also contribute immediately to our team success.
“Again, last year set the bar high in my first season as the girls coach. The question will soon be answered if that was a fluke or if we are a legitimate team to make a tournament run in D-4. I would expect Fruitport Calvary to be better this year and Muskegon Catholic and North Muskegon, as well, to be chasing the same championships we are. It should be an exciting season.”