Bloomfield Hills' Persistence Pays Off with Dream Finish, 1st Championship

By Perry A. Farrell
Special for

June 17, 2022

EAST LANSING – Ava Badallo momentarily made her dream come true by scoring in the first half of Friday's Division 1 soccer championship game at Michigan State’s DeMartin Stadium.

But an offsides penalty nullified what would have been a rare goal against one of the state's stingiest defenses.

Undaunted, the Bloomfield Hills senior forward scored again off a great assist from Brooke Green at 5 minutes, 44 seconds into the second half just the eighth goal Northville had given up all season. The Black Hawks could sense the upset against the unbeaten Mustangs.

Ultimately the game went to a shootout, and it was one more Badallo goal that put Bloomfield Hills up 4-1 and clinched an overall 2-1 victory over the previously-unbeaten Mustangs – earning the Black Hawks' their first Finals championship in girls soccer.

“I think the goal they disallowed was an indirect kick,’’ said Badallo. “We finally got it going and … it was kind of a letdown, but we knew this game was going to be a struggle.

“We finally got those goals. We ended up finishing up in the PK. I don’t even know how to explain the feeling. I’m so just happy Jenica (Opdahl) came up with those big saves. I was able to go in there with a lot of confidence.’’

Opdahl, Bloomfield Hills’ sophomore keeper, said she used a ploy to confuse the Northville shooters.

“I stood to one side leaving one side of the net wide open,’’ she said. “So, I knew they were going to shoot it that way. It worked.’’

Drew Martin, Esther Rosett and Emma Merchant scored during the shootout before Badallo’s clincher. Caroline Meloche scored Northville’s shootout goal.

Bloomfield Hills/Northville soccer“I can’t even believe it,’’ said Merchant, whose goal made it 3-1. “We practice penalty kicks every single day, 15 minutes every practice. To see all our hard work pay off is indescribable.’’

It was a battle of stingy defenses colliding in a struggle that lasted through regulation and overtime.

The second period of overtime saw Bloomfield Hills’ Avary Hall also put the ball into the net, but the goal was called off because of offsides.

Badallo’s second-period score was her 17th goal of the season, and none had been bigger.

“We always talk about the golden minutes,’’ said Black Hawks coach Alan Zakaria. “I was proud of the resilience we showed. You score a goal and have great energy, and it’s disallowed. Our girls responded in a big way. What a great player (Badallo). Our goalkeeper made some great saves. Unbelievable resilience to pull it out.’’

The Mustangs’ Kate Gonzalez got Northville on the board at the 15:27 mark of the second half with a header off an assist from Lauren Moraitis, her 24th, to tie the game at 1-1. 

The Black Hawks (15-2-3) were playing in their first Final and entered the contest having won or tied their last 14 games, while Northville had two runner-up finishes, the most recent in 2014.

Led by nine seniors, the Mustangs hadn’t given up more than one goal in a game all season, posting 16 shutouts on their way to the championship while allowing just seven goals. The Black Hawks posted 11 shutouts this spring.

Bloomfield Hills pressed the action early Friday and had a couple of chances to score but the Mustangs defense, as usual this year, held tough.

Halfway through the first half Northville’s offense started peppering shots at Opdahl, but she was up to the task. Northville played five midfielders in an attempt to put pressure on the Black Hawks’ defense, generating scoring chances.

The Mustangs (18-1-5) had a pair of scoring chances as the second half began to wind down before Gonzalez sent in the equalizer.

“I thought we had some momentum when Kate scored,’’ said Northville coach Jeannine Reddy. “I thought both teams played great. It’s tough to lose that way. It was a good Division 1 state final. Both teams battled. You don’t want that to be your last memory.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Bloomfield Hills celebrates its first Finals championship Friday at DeMartin Stadium. (Middle) The Black Hawks’ Drew Martin (3) controls play with Northville’s Avery Peters (15) in pursuit.

Williams Returns as Hudsonville Seeks Next Step in Pursuit of 1st Finals Title

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

April 19, 2024

HUDSONVILLE – It was a long eight months for Hudsonville’s Cadence Williams.

West MichiganThe junior standout tore the ACL in her right knee in October 2022 and was forced to miss last season, including the Eagles’ tournament run that saw them finish Division 1 runners-up.

“Last year was probably one of the hardest things I've been through,” Williams said. “It's hard to see the field through a different perspective and just looking at the different things that go on in your life personally.

“I don’t think I would’ve wanted anyone else by my side during that time as far as my teammates and coaches. I could not have done it without their support.”

Williams was playing in a club game with the Michigan Rangers when the injury occurred. She knew the severity immediately. 

“I was running and I changed direction, and right away I figured I knew what it was because I was the fifth person on my club team to do it,” Williams said. “I knew it was going to be a long road from there, but I could only think of the glass half-full and do what I could to get back.”

Hudsonville coach Holly VanNoord felt badly for Williams, especially after she had an immediate impact on the team as a freshman.

“It was super tough because we had so much momentum going because she had a great freshman year,” VanNoord said. “It's hard to impact the varsity level being a freshman, and I thought the way she started from the way she finished … it was just a compliment to the work she put in. We were excited going into sophomore year, so it was that much harder to hear the news when she tore her ACL.”

As difficult as it was for Williams to watch her teammates achieve success without her being able to contribute, VanNoord said Williams remained positive and continued to support them.

Kendall Aikens (15) maintains possession during last season’s Division 1 Final.“It shows a lot about her character because she constantly put the team in front of her personal emotions amongst her injury and never let it affect the team,” she said. “She continued to pour into others despite what she was going through, and that is what I’m proud of her most.”

The injury took its toll, but Williams took it in stride.

“It was physically demanding, but it was also challenging mentally,” she said. “But when I look back, I wouldn't change a single thing that I did to end up where I am today.”

Williams returned to the field late last summer, rejoining her club team. She’s thrilled to be back playing the game she loves and eager to help this year’s Hudsonville team duplicate last year’s success.

The Eagles advanced to their first Division 1 Final before suffering a disappointing 2-1 loss to Rochester Hills Stoney Creek.

“It feels wonderful (to be back playing),” Williams said. “I’m lucky that I have an opportunity to be on a team like this, and I couldn't wait for this season and to see how far we can go.

“I think we are very motivated, and we’re always looking for things to do to get better. I feel like every game we step on the field we just want to win.” 

It turned out to be a triumphant return for Williams in her first game this high school season. She scored two goals in a win over Plainwell.

“She had a great start, and she’s creating opportunities for us,” VanNoord said. “It’s been a great comeback season for her so far, and she is just a powerhouse. She works super hard, and it’s fun for me to see that her motivation is higher than ever.

“I think having that year off and being on the sidelines was super tough, but I think there are a lot of areas of growth and even just gratefulness. She can appreciate the game so much more, and it's probably easier for her to work hard just because she's motivated and fueled up more than ever.”

Williams is an important piece on a talented Hudsonville team currently ranked No. 1 in the state after a 5-0-1 start.

Other key returnees include seniors Kendall Aikens and Adelyn Raad, both four-year varsity players, senior keeper Reid DeGoede and sophomore Lauren Moylan.

Lauren Moylan steps into a kick last season. The Eagles, who graduated six seniors last spring, tied Forest Hills Central and opened Ottawa-Kent Conference Red play this week with a 4-0 win over Grand Haven.

“We had a tough start to our schedule, and we did that on purpose because we wanted a challenge,” VanNoord said. “We want to be one of the best teams in the state, so we have to compete against the best teams in the state. We’re happy with our wins, and even tying FHC made us a better team.”

Hudsonville finished 19-3-2 a year ago and is using the Finals loss as motivation.

“I think now that we got to the state Finals, the girls know what it takes,” VanNoord said. “I think last year they were excited to just get to the Finals, and I think losing put a bitterness in their mouth. They are more motivated than ever to get there, and they know they are going to have to work twice as hard because the Division 1 level is a constant battle.”

This year’s team is loaded with talent from top to bottom. The Eagles lean on a stout defense while possessing an array of playmakers.

“That’s what is so fun; they are very versatile,” VanNoord said. “From the backline of the goalkeeping all the way to the forwards. We just have so much talent and athleticism, and the girls are so willing to be coached and put their heads down and work.

“They are great kids, on and off the field, and culture is a big thing for us. Their buy-in has played a huge factor in our overall success.”

Williams believes this year’s team has the ability to make another extended postseason run.

“I think we have a lot of potential, and we’re still getting used to things and getting used to everyone on the team,” she said. “We play really well together, and hopefully we can make it just as far and hopefully pull out a win for a championship.”

Dean HolzwarthDean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for five years after serving at the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years along with shorter stints at the Ionia Sentinel and WZZM. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties. 

PHOTOS (Top) Hudsonville’s Cadence Williams (21) works to get a foot on the ball during a 2022 game against Byron Center. (Middle) Kendall Aikens (15) maintains possession during last season’s Division 1 Final. (Below) Lauren Moylan steps into a kick last season. (Top photo courtesy of the Hudsonville girls soccer program; middle photo by Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)