Preview: 4 Titles, Perfection on the Line

November 6, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

At this point in the season, it’s a rarity that any team has not tasted defeat.

But Saturday’s Boys Soccer Finals feature two teams undefeated this fall – including one seeking its first MHSAA championship.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central and Burton Genesee Christian have not fallen in 2015 – and while Forest Hills Central has three ties, Genesee Christian has won 27 straight since falling in a Regional Semifinal a year ago. Forest Hills Central is seeking its first title in more than a decade; Genesee Christian is seeking its first title … period.

Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern also will play in its first Final, and Williamston also is seeking its first championship after finishing runner-up in Division 3 two of the last three seasons. Canton is hoping to repeat in Division 1 after surviving a Semifinal against Rochester Adams, the team it defeated in last year’s Division 1 Final.

Below is Saturday's schedule, followed by a look at each team in the hunt:

Division 1 at Brighton, 3 p.m.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (22-0-3) vs. Canton (21-5-3)

Division 2 at Comstock Park, 3 p.m.
Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern (22-1-3) vs. Mason (23-3)

Division 3 at Comstock Park, Noon
Grand Rapids South Christian (19-3-3) vs. Williamston (19-5)

Division 4 at Brighton, Noon
Kalamazoo Hackett (20-4-1) vs. Genesee Christian (27-0)

All four Finals will be streamed live on MHSAA.TV and available on a subscription basis. A one-day pass costs $9.95 and allows access to all four games plus the Lower Peninsula Cross Country Finals. A month pass costs $14.95 and allows fans to also watch live the Volleyball Semifinals and Finals and Lower Peninsula Girls Swimming & Diving Finals, plus weekly coverage of the football playoffs. Radio broadcasts of the Soccer Finals will be available on MHSAAnetwork.com.

Click for links to brackets and scores. All statistics below are through Regional Finals.

DIVISION 1

CANTON
Record/rank:
 21-5-3, No. 9
Coach: Mark Zemanski, third season (62-7-9)
League finish: First in Kensington Lakes Activities Association South
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 2014).

Players to watch: Hunter Olson, sr. F (25 goals, 12 assists); Jimmy Walkinshaw, sr. M (five goals, 10 assists); Josh Posuniak, sr. M (six goals, 10 assists).
Outlook: The reigning champion lost two of its first four games and two of its final five of the regular season; hence the lower-than-expected ranking. But the Chiefs defeated No. 8 Salem in the District Final and No. 3 Rochester Adams in the Semifinal, and enter Saturday with six senior starters try to finish with a win. Olsen was an all-state honorable mention as a junior, and senior midfielder Jason Ren scored the lone goal of the 2014 Final.

GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS CENTRAL
Record/rank:
 22-0-3, No. 2
Coach: Blair Lincoln, fourth season (53-21-11)
League finish: First in Ottawa-Kent Conference White
Championship history: Division 2 champion 2004.

Players to watch: Mohamed Haji, jr. F (17 goals, 17 assists); Anthony Bowie, sr. F (40 goals, 24 assists); Jake Ireland, sr. M (13 goals, 13 assists).
Outlook: The Rangers’ undefeated run has included tournament wins over No. 5 Detroit Catholic Central, No. 10 Portage Northern and No. 12 East Kentwood. They’ve improved substantially and annually under Lincoln, who formerly coached at Caledonia for a decade before taking over in 2012. Forest Hills Central was 5-12-2 that fall, but has improved its win total each year. Bowie’s 40 goals heading into the week are enough to make the MHSAA record book, and Haji earned an all-state honorable mention last season.

DIVISION 2

GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN
Record/rank:
 22-1-3, No. 2
Coach: Daniel Siminski, second season (38-3-5)
League finish: First in O-K Bronze
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.

Players to watch: Brayden Texer, soph. F (38 goals, 15 assists); Dante Compean, sr. GK (.930 save %).
Outlook: Forest Hills Northern’s run to its first MHSAA Final has included wins over No. 5 East Lansing, the reigning champion, plus No. 3 Mattawan, No. 14 Petoskey and No. 17 Grand Rapids Northview. The Huskies have given up one or zero goals in 20 of 27 games and spread the wealth offensively after Texer; no other player has more than nine goals, but five more have at least five apiece.

MASON
Record/rank:
 23-3, No. 8
Coach: Nick Binder, ninth season (175-30-12)
League finish: First in Capital Area Activities Conference Red
Championship history: Three MHSAA titles (most recent 1997), one runner-up finish.

Players to watch: Leutrim Shefkiu, sr. M (26 goals, 15 assists); Holden Dippel, sr. D (14 goals, six assists); John Kingman, sr. D (seven goals, 26 assists).
Outlook: Mason occupied the top spot in the first three state coaches polls before a couple of tough losses to good teams. The Bulldogs haven’t given up a goal since their last defeat, a stretch of eight games including all six in the tournament. Shefkiu made the all-state first team as a junior and Dippel and Kingman earned honorable mentions and anchor a back line that has contributed to 18 shutouts total. Senior forward Christian Jordan (11 goals, seven assists) and junior defender Lirim Shefkiu (eight goals, 11 assists) also are key offensive contributors.

DIVISION 3

GRAND RAPIDS SOUTH CHRISTIAN
Record/rank:
 19-3-3, No. 2
Coach: Jason Boersma, fifth season (88-20-13)
League finish: First in O-K Gold
Championship history: Two MHSAA titles (most recent 2012), two runner-up finishes.

Players to watch: Carter Selvius, sr. GK (0.59 goals-against average, 16 shutouts); Ty Brinks, sr. F (20 goals, eight assists); Austin Clark, sr. D.
Outlook: South Christian will be playing in its fifth Final over the last nine seasons, and also finished Division 3 champion in 2010 and runner-up in 2013 and 2007. Selvius, a third-team all-stater last season, is the final line of one of the state’s top defenses, with Clark – a first-team all-state midfielder a year ago – moving back to defend in front of him. Gladwin on Wednesday was the first tournament opponent to score on the Sailors. Senior Zach DeKock and sophomore Sam DeVries both had 15 goals heading into this week to augment the offense.

WILLIAMSTON
Record/rank:
 19-5, No. 3
Coach: Brent Sorg, 11th season (151-89-21)
League finish: First in CAAC White.
Championship history: Division 3 runner-up in 2014 and 2012.

Players to watch: Brian Ganton, sr. F (17 goals, four assists); Josh Ward, sr. M (11 goals, five assists); Eric Oesterle, sr. D (one goal, one assist).
Outlook: The reigning runner-up Hornets will play in their third Final in four seasons and have had great success under Sorg; this season’s win total matches their high during his 11 and they’ve won five straight District titles. Oesterle made the all-state first team last season and Ward made the second, but they are two of a number of contributors who have helped Williamston outscore its opponents by a combined 72-20. Senior Jacob Chisholm added 11 assists from the midfield heading into this week.  

DIVISION 4

BURTON GENESEE CHRISTIAN
Record/rank:
 27-0, No. 14
Coach: Doug Anderson, seventh season (108-41-10)
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.

Players to watch: Cole Russell, jr. M (34 goals, five assists); Riley Buchalski, jr. F (18 goals, 21 assists); Caleb DuPree, jr. F (22 goals, 10 assists).
Outlook: Genesee Christian flew under the radar much of the season despite eliminating then-reigning champion Lansing Christian in a 2014 District Final. Among those to fall early were Division 3 No. 17 Frankenmuth; the Soldiers then cruised through the first four games of the tournament and then eliminated No. 9 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett and top-ranked Lansing Christian, again, to reach this weekend. Russell made the all-state first team last season and Buchalski made the second, and the team also gets a boost from a defense backed by junior keeper Zach Noecker (0.35 goals-against average, 18 shutouts). 

KALAMAZOO HACKETT
Record/rank:
 20-4-1, No. 7
Coach: Ian Troutman, first season (20-4-1)
League finish: Second in Southwestern Athletic Conference
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 1995).

Players to watch: Will Knoll, sr. F (24 goals, 17 assists); Max Keenan, fr. F (18 goals, seven assists); Kieran O’Brien, sr. M (10 goals, 14 assists).
Outlook: First-year coach Troutman, who formerly coached the junior varsity at Haslett and played at Byron Center, has Hackett in its first Final in more than a decade after the Irish fell in the Regional Final a year ago. Six seniors start, including the entire back line in front of junior keeper Matthew Carpenter. They have traveled a tough road over the last two weeks, beating No. 8 Grandville Calvin Christian and No. 10 Hartford to win the Regional and then downing No. 3 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian in the Quarterfinal.

PHOTO: Grand Rapids South Christian sophomore Matthew Hubbard (13) works to gain control of the ball during a game against Lake Odessa Lakewood. (Photo courtesy of Grand Rapids South Christian.)

Storch Returns to Retirement After Elevating Alpena Teams From Cellar to Contenders

By Tom Spencer
Special for MHSAA.com

December 16, 2022

It wasn’t long ago that Alpena boys and girls soccer opponents took their long bus rides to play the Wildcats expecting an easy win, and most likely by securing the victory by the eight-goal differential rule, commonly known as the “mercy rule.”

Worse yet, the Wildcats also had to take those trips across the northern part of the Lower Peninsula, as well as northern and southern journeys of two hours, dreading thoughts of experiencing yet another shortened game.

Those expectations started to change in 2011, when Tim Storch, arguably the most decorated coach in the history of Michigan high school soccer, took the reins of the Wildcats’ boys and girls programs.  

Storch made the move after retiring from Troy Athens as a teacher and coach of the Redhawks’ boys and girls soccer teams.

Slowly but surely, Alpena’s mercy losses disappeared – and wins over their Big North Conference opponents became reality. Under Storch, the Wildcats went from the cellar to challenging for titles.

But now, Storch is showing some mercy on the Big North – perhaps an early Christmas present. The conference schools won’t see him on sidelines any longer. He’s retiring – again.   

Storch is doing so after leading the Wildcats to wins over all conference opponents except Traverse City West. The Wildcats did get a tie this fall against the Titans, one of the BNC schools that regularly makes a deep postseason run, as Alpena stayed in the league title race most of the season.

“When I came to Alpena it was about trying to make the program relevant in the school, the community, the area, the BNC and northern Michigan,” Storch recalled. “We got to that point after some growing pains. 

“Early on we took our lumps, and we were mercied by everybody,” he continued. “By the end we were competitive with everybody.”

Storch, who started the Athens soccer programs from scratch in 1981, won eight Class A or Division 1 Finals titles with the Redhawks. He’s near the top of the lists of the winningest boys and girls soccer coaches in the state. The last of his 1,109 wins was a 3-1 victory over Bay City Western during this fall’s postseason.  

The Wildcats also beat conference opponent Cadillac in their District opener. They finished 14-6-3 on the season.   

Storch will be dearly missed in Northern Michigan, veteran Petoskey boys and girls coach Zach Jonker pointed out. Jonker’s Northmen picked up a victory over Alpena in the Division 2 District Final – also Storch’s last game. 

"Tim has had a legendary career as one of the most influential figures in Michigan high school soccer over the past 40 years while having an enormous impact on thousands of student-athletes,” Jonker said. “Over the past decade, Tim helped to dramatically raise the overall level of play in the Big North. 

Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. “He is one of fiercest competitors I have ever coached against, but he is also one of the most genuine and empathetic coaches I have ever encountered,” Jonker continued. “I feel fortunate to have been able to build a competitive relationship with him and call him a friend."

Storch’s last game with the Alpena girls also was a District Final, a 3-0 loss May 31 to West.

Storch is proud of what the Wildcats accomplished, noting logistics — unlike in southeastern Michigan — were a big challenge.

“We were an island,” Storch said. “We were big school in the middle of nowhere. 

“We couldn’t get together and have any kind of summer program with other communities because they didn’t have soccer, and if they had soccer they were at a Class D or C level that was way beneath what we were playing in the Big North.”

Storch’s tenure, which included six years serving as the Wildcats’ athletic director while coaching, drew accolades from his coaches and athletic directors. In addition to Jonker, Gaylord AD Christian Wilson, and West boys head coach and girls assistant coach Matt Griesinger gave high praise.

They are among those who will miss the successful coach.

“Tim leaves Alpena in better shape than when he arrived, and that is the true mark of a great coach and administrator,” Wilson said. “He has been an outstanding representative of Alpena High School, both as a soccer coach and as an athletic director. 

“Tim brought a level of stability and expertise and was well-thought of by players, coaches, and community members.”

Griesinger, who has led the Titans to considerable postseason success and upheld BNC dominance since taking over the West program eight seasons ago, was particularly impressed with Storch’s energy and passion for his players evident in every match.

“Tim is one of the most respected coaches in the state, and what he has done for the soccer communities in both Troy and Alpena is not just commendable, but also something that every high school coach should hope to emulate,” Griesinger stated. “Storch is a stand-up guy, and all of us other coaches in the BNC should consider ourselves lucky that our journeys in the sport overlapped.”

Storch is leaving Michigan high school sports as they face a shortage of referees and qualified coaches. He’s not certain of the exact reasons for it, but he points to time constraints and pressures faced on and off the field.

And, he knows the days of a teacher starting a career, coaching sports and sticking with it are long gone.

“My wife has always said I was a dinosaur,” Storch said with a chuckle. “Back in my day, even if you had family and kids, you still made time for coaching. 

“Coaching was part of my fiber — it kind of defined me.”

Storch is quick to point out “soccer coach” was just one of three hats he wore, along with history teacher and friend.

“I’m Mr. Storch to my students,” he recalls telling his student-athletes at Athens. “I’m Coach to my kids, and I am Tim to my friends.

“They are three different hats; I learned how to wear them and how to balance them.”

Storch looks back to all the friendships he’s made around the game of soccer – with former players, fellow coaches, and referees – with excitement for the future.  

He is also keeping in mind former players, referees and coaches who have passed on.

“It is kind of humbling when I think back all the years (to) coaches, referees and players I have interacted with,” he said. “We’re all here for a finite time. 

“We need to make the most of it and hopefully leave the place a better place when we leave.”

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at tomspencer@chartermi.net with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Recently-retired Alpena soccer coach Tim Storch, left, talks things over with one of his players. (Middle) Storch, holding the microphone, elevated the Wildcats’ girls and boys programs since taking over both in 2011. (Photos courtesy of Therese Shaw.)