Freeland 'Family' Ready to Charge Again

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

April 18, 2018

Winning MHSAA championships runs in Mackenzie Stroebel’s family.

Her sister Lindsay won a basketball title at Saginaw Nouvel, while her mother Dawn did the same at Carrollton.

After coming tantalizingly close in each of the past three seasons, Mackenzie Stroebel is ready to continue her family’s streak with her other family the Freeland girls soccer team.

“Ever since we lost (in the 2017 Division 3 Final), that’s all I really thought about, is getting there and winning it this year,” Stroebel said. “My mom and sister, they won state championships in basketball, so it makes me want to go that far and win it. Seeing how the community supports everyone, it’s just a good feeling. It would make some school history for us, because no soccer team has ever done it. That’s what I’m striving for, to help make history within our school.”

The Falcons have already made plenty of school history over the past four years, seeing an unprecedented run of success under coach Lauren Kemerer. Since Kemerer took over prior to the 2014 season, Freeland has gone 83-9-4 (including a win in its lone game this season), winning four straight Regional titles, which resulted in four straight Division 3 Semifinal berths. The 2014 Regional title was the first in program history.

“It took a lot of restructuring, and establishing my views and my beliefs in soccer,” said Kemerer, who played collegiately at Schoolcraft College and Saginaw Valley State University. “Not that the coach before me was doing things wrong. But when I came in I said, ‘Listen, this is a clean slate,’ and revamped everything. I kind of put my spin on things, my views, and how I believe athletes should be dedicated to the sport, the team and the school.”

Thanks to Kemerer’s approach of showing rather than telling, the girls quickly bought in. That, combined with a strong soccer community in Freeland, led to quick results.

“The really great thing about the Freeland community is all these girls have played with each other and on the same team while they were growing up,” Kemerer said. “The relationship they have on and off the field, they’re pretty much inseparable. It makes the community and team a really tight-knit family.”

With the loss of a strong senior class, including all-state midfielders Michelle Herring and Jessica Piper, the Falcons hope that strong community can lead to a quick integration of the underclassmen on their roster.

Despite the fact outdoor practices have been at a premium thanks to the weather, the Falcons feel that integration is coming along nicely.

“I think the biggest thing with underclassmen is they are nervous, so as soon as they feel comfortable and calm with those nerves of playing at the varsity level, they’ll be successful,” Stroebel said. “Our team is really close, so that helps, too. Most of the underclassmen that are varsity this year got pulled up for tournaments last year. We know them, we all walk the same halls, so you see them pretty much every day.”

There is plenty of talent returning to help those underclassmen and take the pressure off them. Stroebel was a first-team all-state forward a year ago, while junior forward Autumn Kloha was second-team all-state and senior keeper Alexa Walker earned honorable mention.

“We have a really young team, but we’re going to be solid this year again,” Kemerer said. “Even though we’re really young, we have a lot of talent.”

The veterans on the team have set a goal of winning the Division 3 title. That’s not uncommon, of course, but for Freeland it’s not overly ambitious. It’s also different than a year ago.

In 2017, the Falcons set a goal of defeating three-time reigning champion Hudsonville Unity Christian, the team that knocked them out in the Semifinals in 2015 and 2016.

It was a big goal, and one Freeland accomplished but in the Semifinal, one game short of winning it all. Without Piper, who was injured in the Semifinal win against Unity Christian, and with their season goal completed, Freeland found it difficult to keep up with a strong Flint Powers team.

“Going into the game, we kind of already were set because (defeating Unity Christian) was our goal,” Freeland senior Hannah Doran said. “I don’t think we were really prepared for it, because we had prepared for the Semifinal game. We had our hearts in it, but I don’t think we were all there for the last game.”

The 4-0 loss was a learning experience, however, as Freeland was able to see what was needed to compete for a title. So far, Kemerer has seen a determination to match that.

“They know what it takes now to be at that level,” Kemerer said. “They were just crushed last year after they lost. I told them, ‘This game is going to be a big game; it’s faster paced.’ Getting a taste of knowing what it takes to win at that level was good for them. They’re hungry. They’re very much hungry for that title.”

With the goal in place, and a plan to get there, the Falcons are ready to make history for the Freeland family.

“It would make school history, first of all,” Kloha said. “I would just feel accomplished winning a state championship. That’s what I’ve been working for my whole high school career and through travel, to win a state championship.”

Paul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Freeland’s Mackenzie Stroebel (24) carries possession upfield during last season’s Division 3 Final against Flint Powers Catholic. (Middle) Autumn Kloha prepares to pull up for a shot at Powers’ goal during the finale.

McBain Northern Michigan Christian's VanNoord Building on Career Excellence

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 13, 2024

Jada VanNoord entered her senior season this spring on the MHSAA girls soccer career goal list with 108 over her first three seasons at McBain Northern Michigan Christian, and after scoring 40 with 63 total points in 2023.

She also was just shy of making the career points list after making the single-season list as a sophomore with 52 in 2022.

VanNoord has signed to continue her career at Cornerstone University.

See below for more recent additions to the girls soccer record book, and click the heading to see the record book in full.  

Girls Soccer

Sophomore Macy Freeman became the first from Otisville LakeVille Memorial to be listed in the girls soccer record book when she scored all eight goals in her team’s win over Flint Carman-Ainsworth on April 29, 2022, and she was added for the second-highest scoring game in history with 10 goals last May 12 against Marlette. Freeman also was added for 43 goals total as a sophomore and 39 as a junior, and she entered this season on the career goals list as well with 81.

Brighton Charyl Stockwell’s Cassie Hall earned a pair of record book entries for her offensive performance as a junior in 2022. She made the single-season goals list with 55 and single-season points list with 60.

Although her 224 saves as a senior in 2022 fell just shy of making the single-season list, Parchment goalkeeper Gabrielle Novak finished her career with 713 over three seasons and 51 games – with 2020 canceled because of COVID-19. She was joined that spring by senior Kasey Leckie, who made the single-season goals list with 32.

Grace Hewitt became the first West Michigan Aviation Academy player to be listed for career goals, as she tallied 75 from 2019-22 (with 2020 canceled). She also was added for 32 as a senior.

Remus Chippewa Hills’ Karley Densmore made 36 saves against Big Rapids on April 25, 2022, tied for fifth-most in one match, and her 292 over 17 games for the season rank third. Additionally, teammate Hayley Gomber was added for five assists in a game against Mason County Central on April 7, 2022. Both were juniors.

Kelila Rustin made the single-season saves list in 2022 with 251 over 17 games. She was a sophomore at Ionia.

Allison Johnson earned Howard City Tri County’s first girls soccer record book entry in 2021, scoring 30 goals over 19 games. She graduated in 2023.

Schoolcraft’s Hannah Thompson totaled 18 record book entries over three varsity seasons, despite missing her sophomore year which was canceled due to COVID-19. The 2022 graduate five times had a single-game high of eight goals, and as a senior she bested her state record for points with 99 – despite falling just a few goals short of her state record in that category, with a second-place 83. She finished with 130 goals, second all-time, over a combined 54 games, and a fifth-highest 240 points. She’s playing at Eastern Michigan.

Sterling Heights 2023 graduate Mikalah Lewis earned a pair of record book entries over her final two seasons. The first was for 34 goals as a junior in 2022, and she tied for third-most assists in a game on April 10 of last season with six against Center Line.

Lily Usher capped her three-year varsity career at Owosso last spring with 60 more saves than anyone over a career in MHSAA history. She tops that list with 773 over 49 games, with her 268 as a junior in 2022 added as well – and that season she also tied her single-game high with 35.

Layne Palmer had one of the busiest goalkeeping nights in MHSAA history April 21, 2023, when she saved 43 shots from Utica Ford during a 6-0 loss. The Port Huron senior’s saves remain tied for third-most for one game.

Grace Graham capped her Laingsburg career in 2021 by leading the Wolfpack to its first Regional Final appearance – and made the record book for 39 goals and also 51 total points.

Cheboygan’s Kenzie Burt is playing college basketball at Aquinas College, but she left her mark on her high school soccer program as a senior in 2023. Burt made the record book with 33 goals and 53 points total.

Jessica Peters earned Dryden’s first girls soccer entry since 2012 with 48 goals as a senior in 2023, over 19 games. She’s continuing at St. Clair County Community College.

Lydia Kruis and Litzy Ramirez capped their three-season Comstock varsity careers last year with performances among the best all-time in the sport. Among 10 record book entries, Kruis was added for 74 goals (third all-time) and 83 points (sixth) as a senior and 158 goals for her career (ninth). Her eight goals last May 17 against Buchanan tied for fourth-most in one game. Ramirez graduated with seven record book listings, with her six assists against Buchanan that game tied for third-most with her 47 for the season setting the MHSAA record. Her 86 career assists tied for ninth.

Jaidyn Veldhouse led Grandville Calvin Christian to another successful run last spring. A senior now, she made record lists with 37 goals and 52 points as the Squires finished 17-1-3. She will continue at Saginaw Valley State.

Isabella Pool’s junior season last spring included a highlight against Marshall. Although her Coldwater team took a 5-0 loss, Pool saved 39 shots – fifth-most for one match in MHSAA history.

Lutheran Westland added its second athlete to this record book, and first since 2005, as Madilyn Webb finished her three-season varsity career with 48 goals and 53 points last spring and 105 goals over her three seasons. She also scored 33 goals as a junior and seven in one game against Brighton Charyl Stockwell Academy. She’s continuing at Concordia-Ann Arbor.

PHOTO McBain Northern Michigan Christian's Jada VanNoord (20) steps into a kick during a May 1 game against Clare. (Photo courtesy of the Cadillac News.)