The Plainwell girls soccer team has given up one more goal this season than the number of seniors on the varsity roster.
That total of one goal is especially impressive given the team’s zero seniors as it continues to stand among the state’s elite in Division 2 with District play set to begin in two weeks.
The MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for April opened the season with seven straight shutouts during that month and extended the streak to 10 into the first week of May before finally surrendering a goal Monday against Dowagiac. But the Trojans came back with another shutout of Edwardsburg on Wednesday, bringing the total to 11 scoreless results during a 12-0 start for a team with seven juniors, eight sophomores, three freshmen and no one graduating this spring.
The majority of the lineup returned from last season’s 13-3-1 team that reached the District Final before falling in overtime. But factor this as well into the impressive start: The first six shutouts came with junior starting keeper Eliza Harris out and sophomore Evelyn Alward taking her place as the last line of defense.
This year’s team passed last year’s shutout total of eight nearly two weeks ago.
“We lost three seniors last year, but the girls stepped up in those spots,” Plainwell coach Garry Snyder said. “I think it’s the combination of a little bit more maturity, playing together, better team chemistry this year than last year. It’s something we’ve been working on and still continue to work on.”
Harris has been back in net since the last game in April, and a strong group in front of her limits opponents’ opportunities with junior Renae Jaeger at center back and juniors Gaby Zugel and Berlynn Conley flanking her. Junior Catey Engel and sophomore Brooklyn Timpe also are significant contributors from the defensive midfield spots, and sophomore Kailah Newcomb dips back to help as well.
Newcomb, a midfielder who Snyder notes for her exceptional vision on the field, leads the team with 14 goals and is tied with a team-best six assists. Sophomore forward Kayla Baar joined her as a standout freshman in 2021 and has 12 goals and five assists utilizing speed Snyder said is unmatched.
Zugel, who can play all over the pitch, has added nine goals, with Timpe and junior forward Nikki Faupel sending in six apiece. Faupel, who moved up front from outside mid this season, also shares the team lead with six assists.
Among Plainwell’s wins was a 1-0 shutout of Grand Rapids South Christian (13-2), which is ranked No. 3 in Division 3. The Trojans also have wins over three Division 1 opponents, and with one more victory can guarantee a share of a repeat Wolverine Conference title.
Then comes the postseason. Plainwell today would be the top seed of a daunting District that includes three one-loss teams. District pairings will be posted Sunday morning.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do,” Snyder said. “(We need to) make sure we take care of business and stay healthy. That’s the key; we’ve had a number of health issues, banged up here and there. (But) someone else is always willing to step up and get the job done.”
Past Teams of the Month, 2021-22
March: West Bloomfield girls basketball - Read
February: Cadillac girls skiing - Read
January: Hartland hockey - Read
December: Midland Dow girls basketball - Read
November: Reese girls volleyball - Read
October: Birmingham Groves boys tennis - Read