Country Day Capitalizes on Long-Awaited Finals Trip

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 18, 2021

EAST LANSING – Madison Salzenstein watched her shot hit the back of the net Friday with 8 minutes, 28 seconds to play in the MHSAA Division 3 Girls Soccer Final, and finally allowed herself to believe the job was done.  

The Detroit Country Day senior spun toward her teammates at the edge of the six-yard box and let out a scream.  

“I knew we were state champs right then,” she said.  

Salzenstein scored a pair of goals to lead the Yellowjackets to a 3-0 victory against Boyne City at DeMartin Soccer Complex at Michigan State University. The win gave Country Day its sixth soccer title, and first since 2004. 

“Euphoric is the only way to describe it,” said Country Day senior Calihan Bearden, who scored the other Yellowjackets goal. “We’ve been waiting so long with this group. We knew it was possible. Last year really set us back, but we knew this year was the year. It’s awesome.” 

Country Day’s seniors fittingly came up with the big moments while getting the program back to the top, as the team was dominated by the Class of 2021, with 12 on the roster and eight in the starting lineup.  

“There’s definitely been pressure,” Salzenstein said. “We knew that on paper, this team has many, many talented players, and we just knew that we had the talent to do it, we just had to get it done. We had a lot of pressure, but we were able to push through and get to it and we were able to win. So, it was amazing.” 

Country Day (17-2-2) owned the game in the midfield, not allowing Boyne City’s sister tandem of Jordan and Taylor Noble to get going and threaten Yellowjackets keeper Lila Bienhold. The Nobles had combined for more than 60 goals during the season, but Bienhold didn’t have to make a save, only getting involved when she expertly read long balls and played them back up field. 

The combination of Bearden, Olivia Sappington, Sophie Enrud, Sarina Yu, Lilly Glaza and Jacqueline Sarafa playing the midfield and Country Day’s high defensive line were stout from the opening whistle to the final horn.  

“It was just a matter of knowing where (the Nobles) were at on the field and respecting the speed and their quick counter,” Country Day coach Laura Hamway said. “The system we played, we were up a number on them in the central midfield, so we were able to possess like a constant triangle around them and go out the other way.” 

Boyne City coach Eduardo Fantozzi knew coming in that his team was up against a tough opponent, and seeing Country Day up close was just as impressive as he anticipated. 

Detroit Country Day soccer

“Their speed is – they pass well, they’re all technically strong, and they have great speed from the back to the front,” Fantozzi said. “That’s a tough team to beat. That’s why they beat Troy Athens, the team that’s in the Division 1 state finals tomorrow. That’s the reason why. What are you going to do with that?” 

While Country Day had controlled the majority of the first half with possession, its breakthrough came on the counter.  

After dealing with a Boyne City free kick, the Yellowjackets sprung Victoria Miler down the field, and the dangerous freshman was brought down in the box, earning her team a penalty. Bearden left no doubt, powering the spot kick into the back of the net and giving her team a 1-0 lead with 10:11 remaining in the first half. 

“So stressful,” Bearden said. “I’ve never missed one in practice, so I knew if I just focused I would be fine. It was a little close to the middle for my liking, but it’s OK, it went in. A goal is a goal.” 

Up to that point, Boyne City had done a good job of limiting Country Day chances despite spending most of that time on the defensive. The Yellowjackets’ best chance early was a Gigi Gallette shot from outside the box which rattled the crossbar. Miller also created a chance, dribbling through the center of the Boyne City defense, but the ball was swallowed up by Boyne City keeper Maggie McHugh before Miller could get off a shot. 

Country Day’s Yu nearly doubled the lead during the final minutes of the half, just missing the top corner on a volley off a corner kick.  

The Country Day assault continued early in the second half, and Salzenstein had a pair of big chances within a minute. The first was thwarted by McHugh, while Salzenstein took advantage of the second, beating a defender at the top of the 18-yard box and sliding the ball past the Boyne City keeper to give her team a 2-0 lead with 36:16 to play.  

Salzenstein put away what little doubt remained with 8:28 to play, scoring her second goal off an assist from Jordan John. 

Boyne City (21-2-2) was making its first appearance in an MHSAA Final and defeated perennial power Hudsonville Unity Christian in the Semifinal to reach it. While it ended in a loss, Fantozzi and the fans who packed into the stands Friday saw the season as an absolute success. 

“We’re the only Boyne sports team to ever make it to a state final in school history,” Fantozzi said. “For the community, you saw them out there, it’s amazing. We had great support. They love these kids. But that’s what it’s all about.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Detroit Country Day’s Gigi Gallette (27) and Boyne City’s Inanna Hauger work to gain possession during Friday’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) The Yellowjackets’ Lily Glaza (14) sends a pass just past Boyne’s Ava Maginity.

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.)