By: Butch Harmon
Girls soccer preview
By BUTCH HARMON
Traditional powers look strong again in girls' soccer this season, but a number of other teams are looking to make their marks as well. This spring’s bad weather has hindered area teams, but a number of them have already made their marks as the season hits full gear.
Teams to watch statewide: Plymouth, Forest Hills Central, Rochester Stoney Creek, Utica Eisenhower
Oakland County has been a hotbed for girls' soccer in Michigan, and that will be the case once again as teams like Rochester Stoney Creek, Rochester, and Rochester Adams all have solid teams capable of reaching the final four in Division 1. Plymouth has a young and extremely talented team. In West Michigan, Forest Hills Central has an outstanding defensive team. East Kentwood and Caledonia also have talented squads and will be in the same loaded district as Forest Hills Central.
Top local teams: Rockford, Midland Dow, Okemos
Okemos had one of the most talented soccer teams in years last spring, and the Chieftains rode that talent to the Division 1 state championship. Graduation day, however, hit them hard, and although there is still talent in the cupboard, the Chieftains will be doing some rebuilding. Okemos does have a good building block in junior forward Kristelle Yewah, who earned all-state honors last season.
Grand Ledge returns a number of solid players led by midfielder Jessica Burg and defender Jayne White.
Midland Dow and Davison look to be the premier teams in the Saginaw Valley. Dow enjoyed a strong start to the regular season that included winning the prestigious Portage Central tournament behind the offensive skills of Hannah Piper. Davison is coming off a solid season and is primed for a big season this spring. Sophomore midfielder Alyssa Burke earned all-state honors last year and leads the way along with Mackenzie Brown and Casey Wangler.
Grand Blanc has captured three consecutive district titles, and the Bobcats are primed to make it four in a row. Although they suffered heavy graduation losses, sophomore Annie Walker is a high-scoring forward who will make them dangerous on offense. The Bobcats are also solid in goal with Rebecca Turvene.
Rockford has another powerful squad but has the unfortunate draw of playing in one of the toughest districts in the state. The Rams have a solid defensive club led by Marissa Platz in goal. They can also score goals in bunches, with Katie Hartnett leading the way along with Missy Biener and Erika Bradfield.
Top players in the state: Liz Abro, Troy Athens; Stephanie Heber, Rochester; Allison Holland, Troy; Madi Killeen, Forest Hills Central
Top local players: Jessica Burg, Grand Ledge; Katie Hartnett, Rockford; Hannah Piper, Midland Dow; Annie Walker, Grand Blanc; Kristelle Yewah, Okemos
Teams to watch statewide: Marian, Ladywood, Forest Hills Northern, Gull Lake, Plainwell
Marian is the team to beat in Division 2 again this season. It has won three out of the last four D2 state titles and comes into this season ranked No. 1 in the state. Always a potent offensive team, Marian also features an outstanding defense this year. It will be challenged in the Detroit area by Ladywood. In Western Michigan, Forest Hills Northern and Grand Rapids Christian are a pair of powerhouses. Southwest Michigan will see traditional powers Plainwell and Gull Lake battle for the top spot.
Top local teams: Haslett, Mt. Pleasant, DeWitt, Fenton
After playing second fiddle to DeWitt in both the CAAC Red and in the district the past few years, the Haslett soccer team is poised to surge ahead of the Panthers this spring. Haslett returns a bevy of starters from last year's squad and is led by senior midfielder Tasha Bolda and senior defender Mariah Beebe. The Vikings also have a talented freshman to add to the mix in Charlie Campbell. DeWitt, on the other hand, suffered heavy graduation losses. It did, however, do a nice job of rebuilding and has some standouts around whom to to build the team in junior Natalie Knauf, who earned all-state honors last season, and senior Abbey Maurer.
St. Johns will also be a factor in the CAAC Red race this season. The Redwings return one of the premier goal scorers in senior forward Megan Feldpausch. She scored 31 goals last season.
Mt. Pleasant is off to a strong start this season and will be a contender in the Saginaw Valley. The Oilers have an outstanding one-two punch on offense with Ashley Montgomery and Whitnee Foote and a solid goaltender in Kaley Pittsley. Foote scored a hat trick in Mt. Pleasant’s key 4-1 victory over Midland Dow.
Fenton reached the regional semifinals last season. The Tigers are the team to beat in the Flint Metro Conference and have a solid lineup led by senior forward Payton Maxhiemer and junior midfielder Mackenzie Murphy.
Top players in the state: Sam Thornton, Linden; Olivia Vollmers, Dexter; Robyn Wujkowski, Forest Hills Northern
Top local players: Tasha Bolda, Haslett; Megan Feldpausch, St. Johns; Whitnee Foote, Mt. Pleasant; Zoe Klem, Owosso; Natalie Knauf, DeWitt; Ashley Montgomery, Mt. Pleasant
Teams to watch statewide: Detroit Country Day, Grand Rapids South Christian, Unity Christian, Notre Dame Preparatory
Perhaps no spring sports team has been as dominant at the state level as Unity Christian girls' soccer has. The Crusaders have won seven of the past eight Division 3 state titles and have been almost unbeatable at times. However, graduation hit the Crusaders hard last June, and Unity will not only have a difficult time repeating as state champs, but also in returning to the final four, as a talented Grand Rapids South Christian team will be a major hurdle in the road. South Christian already sent the message that it is poised to make a run at the final four by shutting out Unity early this season. Detroit Country Day entered the season ranked No. 1 in Division 3 and will be the favorite once the state tournament begins.
Top local teams: Powers Catholic, Williamston, Frankenmuth, Birch Run
Powers Catholic has been one of the strongest area programs the past several years. The Chargers have played in the Division 3 state title match four of the past six years, and a fifth trip to the finals is a strong possibility this season, despite suffering some heavy graduation losses on defense.
Williamston has been to the state finals twice in the last five years, and the Hornets have another solid team this spring. It has one of the premier goalkeepers in the state in Caitlyn Clem, who has committed to play at the University of Wisconsin. The Hornets also have several other starters back from a team that turned in a 17-5-2 record last year and that has won five straight league titles.
Lansing Catholic finished second to Williamston last season, and the Cougars have a number of players returning, led by senior defender Emily Burns.
In the Tri-Valley Conference, Frankenmuth and Birch Run will be battling for supremacy. Frankenmuth is paced by Emma Cookingham, while Birch Run features talented forward Jyllian Coggins.
In the Tri-Valley Central, keep an eye on Ovid-Elsie. Senior midfielder Abagail Halm is a returning all-state pick and is one of several talented players returning to the lineup for the Marauders.
Top players in the state: Emily Blankespoor, Grand Rapids South Christian; Leah Hill, Detroit Country Day; Michelle Manning, Detroit Contry Day; Taylor Timko, Notre Dame Preparatory
Top local players: Emily Burns, Lansing Catholic; Caitlyn Clem, Williamston; Jyllian Coggins, Birch Run; Emma Cookingham, Frankenmuth; Abagail Halm, Ovid-Elsie; Khrystal Lewis, Powers Catholic
Teams to watch statewide: Calvin Christian, Our Lady of the Lakes, Hackett Catholic Central, Kalamazoo Christian
Calvin Christian won the D4 state title without a problem last season, as the Squires outscored their semifinal and final foes by a combined 9-0. They are looking to pick up where they left off and are currently the top-ranked team in Division 4. Kalamazoo schools dominated girls' soccer for several years, with Hackett and Kalamazoo Christian combining to win the title every year from 2006 through 2009. The Kalamazoo area is looking to regain the title this season.
Top local teams: Lansing Christian, Nouvel Catholic Central
Lansing Christian has a team capable of winning a state title, but the Pilgrims were dealt a big blow when first team all-state selection Kristy Gomez was lost for the season with a knee injury. Even without Gomez, they still have a talented squad and are led by Elizabeth Perkins and Mikayla Terry.
Nouvel Catholic Central has a talented young team that will be a huge factor in the state tournament. It returns all-stater Allie Kendall to lead a potent offense, and the Panthers are solid on defense. Nouvel has already defeated Powers this season and has the talent for a deep tournament run.
Keep an eye on Laingsburg, which has a talented young team led by sophomores Sarah Drury and Erica Halick, who both earned all-state honors last season.
Top players in the state: Hilary Curry, Calvin Christian; Ava Doetsch, Our Lady of the Lakes; Victoria Hedemark, Dansville; Grace Smith, Hackett Catholic Central
Top local players: Allie Kendall, Nouvel Catholic Central; Kaelin Martlock, Valley Lutheran; Elizabeth Perkins, Lansing Christian; Mikayla Terry, Lansing Christian