KENTWOOD – The East Kentwood girls soccer team managed to win only four games a year ago.
In a remarkable turnaround, the Falcons have already surpassed that win total less than a month into this season.
“Going into the season I felt strongly that we had a really good group of girls,” fifth-year East Kentwood coach Mark Bea said. “You never know quite how it is going to come together, but I’m pleased with where we are at.
“We’ve done enough to find ways to win even when we haven't been at our best. A lot of girls have made that happen. We’ve done some good things, but still have a long way to go.”
The Falcons entered the week with a 5-1 record, their best start since 2015. East Kentwood’s only loss had occurred against Division 3 No. 6 Grand Rapids West Catholic, although the Falcons are now 5-3 after defeats over the last three days to Division 1 No. 6 Rockford and Caledonia.
“I’m really proud of all the girls,” Bea said. “They work hard to improve every day, and we’ve played some very good teams that are extremely well coached. This team has been able to prevail in most of them, and it's been really helpful for us to pick up some more nonconference games due to our conference tournament.
“We’ve also had the benefit of just being able to get some momentum by playing teams outside of our conference.”
East Kentwood received a huge confidence boost last week with a 2-1 win over Plainwell, which won 12 games a year ago and has a solid program. The Falcons followed that with victories over the weekend against Grand Ledge and Gaylord.
“We have a really great group of girls who play extremely hard and are learning to play even harder,” East Kentwood senior Rebecca Moore said. “We have a lot of trust in each other and love representing our school through the soccer field.
“Our defense has been solid so far, and we look to continue to get better. All of us understand that we win and lose as a team and we use our losses as learning experiences in order to better ourselves and the team as a whole.”
Moore, along with Ana Guillory and McKenna Van Overen, have been senior leaders, while an impressive core of sophomore standouts has been vital to the team’s early success.
The Falcons rostered several freshmen last season, and that year of experience has proved to be beneficial.
The sophomore contingent has been led by another in Ella Zoerhoff, who is playing in high school for the first time after competing at the club level as a freshman.
“I always wanted to play for East Kentwood, but didn’t know which year would be right,” Zoerhoff said. “I thought this year I should try out and obviously I think it’s going pretty well so far. I was really excited to play this year, and I’m excited that we are winning games.
“I feel like it's been a team effort, and everyone has been doing their job correctly.”
Zoerhoff has provided a scoring punch with a team-high eight goals, while Guillory and sophomore Breyona Ikwueme also have been offensive catalysts.
“Ella is a game changer and we have a couple of other forwards, so having three up there makes everyone better,” Bea said. “You can't mark just one of them because the other ones are going to get you, so that’s helpful.”
The Falcons also have been stingy on defense, keyed by Moore and sophomore Sofia Daniel.
Other contributors include sophomores Liliana Bea, Camryn Kolzow and Cassie Block, and junior Emersyn Port.
“Having a team where you have some threats to score is a big piece, but it’s also about having a central defense and they have just done a tremendous job,” Bea said. “We would not be able to do what we’re doing on offense if our central defenders weren’t doing what they've done.”
The Rockford and Caledonia games marked the start of Ottawa-Kent Conference Red play, with Grand Haven and Grandville up next week. May 9 opponent Hudsonville is ranked No. 5 in Division 1 this week.
“Arguably, we have one of the toughest conferences in the state, and the Red is just brutal,” Bea said.
“We are a work in progress and have some huge matches against phenomenal opponents in our conference coming up. Our objective is to take it one game at a time and continue to improve game by game.”
Zoerhoff also is eager to see how this team can compete.
“I'm looking forward to the O-K Red, and I’m looking forward to good competition and to start conference play this week,” she said. “We have some good momentum right now.”
Dean 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) The East Kentwood girls soccer team celebrates a win this spring. (Middle) Sophomore Ella Zoerhoff (8) sends a header against Plainwell. (Photos courtesy of the East Kentwood girls soccer program.)
Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.
Below is this week's segment – Soccer Overtime - Listen
Soccer games in the postseason have one big noticeable difference from the regular season. In the postseason, games cannot end in a tie – so games go to overtime and possibly a shootout.
Here’s how that works:
If the game is tied at the end of regulation, it will go to overtime, which is two 10-minute periods played in its entirety. There is no sudden death or golden goal winner. If there is a winner at the end of the 20 minutes, that team wins and advances to the next round. If there’s still a tie, we move to a shootout.
In the shootout, the teams alternate taking five penalty kicks. If it’s still tied after five kicks, they each kick until the tie is broken.
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