Unity Lead Scorer Raring to Return

September 20, 2019

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

HUDSONVILLE – Unity Christian soccer standout Kadin Shaban isn’t accustomed to standing on the sidelines and helplessly watching his teammates compete.

Unfortunately, that’s Shaban’s current role after suffering an ankle injury two weeks ago during a game against Zeeland West.

“It’s hard to watch,” Shaban admitted. “I’ve kind of been losing my mind watching.”

Shaban was diagnosed with a high ankle sprain and has missed the last four games for the reigning Division 3 champion.

The top-ranked Crusaders have remained unbeaten (8-0-4) in his absence, but coach Randy Heethuis is looking forward to having his returning all-state Dream Team player back in the fold.

“It’s been a bummer, and we are a completely different team without him, but hopefully we can get him back very soon,” Heethuis said. “Hopefully when he is able to get back out there he can pick up where he left off, because he was having a tremendous season up until getting hurt.”

Shaban is Unity’s top goal scorer, and has been every year since arriving on the high school scene.

The 17-year-old scored 20 goals as a freshman and followed that up with 22 goals and 10 assists as a sophomore.

Last season, he notched 31 goals and 21 assists while helping spark Unity to a Division 3 title. He already had tallied 12 goals and nine assists this season.

Shaban’s penchant for finding the back of the net was apparent from the onset.

“When he came in as a freshman at our opening tryout, he very much made his presence known and showed he had a knack for scoring,” Heethuis said. “He is one of those kids who thoroughly loves soccer and he has continued to progress, continued to get better and continued to work on his game.”

Shaban’s four-year stint on the varsity has been rare in the school’s boys program, and his 85 career goals are the most in school history.

And while he has blossomed into a prolific goal scorer, Shaban said it didn’t begin that way.

“Actually, I started out as a defender on my first club team,” he said. “And I remember scoring my first ever goal in U-9 with my knee. I remember that to this day.

“I did not start out as a goal scorer, but then I ended up moving up through the positions and then by U-13 I was the goal scorer. I think it’s the best feeling there is to be able to score, and every game I want to try and score.”

Two of Shaban’s biggest tallies came last fall when he had a pair in a thrilling 3-1 overtime win over Grosse Ile in the Final. The title was Unity’s fifth.

“It was my third year of trying to get one and to finally get it was fun, especially doing it with all of my friends,” Shaban said.

Shaban has verbally committed to sign with Michigan State and will be one of only four or five players from Unity who will have gone on to play Division I soccer, according to Heethuis.

Shaban’s competitive nature has been compared to former Unity star Jared Timmer, who went on to play at Butler.

“Both of them are very competitive and love the game of soccer,” Heethuis said. “Two very special players, but yet different types of players on the field.

“Kadin is smaller than Jared was, but he’s got quick feet and he’s very shifty. He is a difference-maker on the field, and anytime he gets the ball he is a threat to score. The opposition, when he gets the ball, you hold your breath like, OK, what’s going to happen next?”

Shaban’s passion for soccer came from his father, Talal.

“He was born in Nigeria and grew up overseas,” Shaban said. “He was over there in Lebanon, and it’s a whole different sporting world because soccer has always been big there.

“When he came here he instilled that in me when I was young, and him and I just love the game and we watch it. The teams we follow are rivals so that makes it pretty interesting, and he’s coached me all the way through.”

Shaban hopes for a return to the field next week and is determined to help the Crusaders in their bid to end this season on a high note.

“We’ve had a couple shaky games in conference play, but we’re hoping to turn it around come tournament time and go all the way,” Shaban said. “That’s the dream, to go back-to-back.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM. Contact him at[email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Unity Christian’s Kadin Shaban stretches to push the ball into Grosse Ile’s net during last season’s Division 3 championship game win. (Middle) Shaban, after receiving his medal at last year’s Final.

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 [email protected] 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.)