Gull Lake Embraces 2nd Straight Title

June 14, 2014

By Mark Meyer
Special for Second Half

WILLIAMSTON – The postgame victory hugs late Saturday afternoon were twice as tight this time around and lasted just a little bit longer.

Junior midfielder Mickey Hostetler received hers from coach Jeff Corstange, as did junior defender Hayley Buckhout, senior goalkeeper Maggie Harma and sophomore midfielder Riley Wisser. Senior captains Tabitha Boze and Rachel Fouts savored theirs as did the rest of the victorious Blue Devils, who defeated Bloomfield Hills Marian 2-1 in the title game for the second straight season to finish 24-1-1.

Gull Lake won the 2013 title 1-0 in overtime over Marian, the 2012 champion.

“It’s an honor to represent the west side of the state in a game like this,” Corstange said. “The east side schools play a physical brand of soccer, and I felt like we answered that challenge. We were able to execute our game plan to the fullest.”

The intensity of this year’s rematch was evident throughout as the top-ranked teams (No. 1 Marian, No. 2 Gull Lake) traded excellent scoring opportunities throughout the game. Marian keeper Megan Bricely denied Blue Devils forward Kirsten Taylor three times in the first half from close range – twice on the same play when Taylor recovered the first shot only to be stopped on the rebound attempt.

“Last year we carried the play to them,” said Marian coach Barry Brodsky. “This year they had us back on our heels.”

Wisser opened the scoring for Gull Lake at 16:52 of the first half on a left corner kick that hooked sharply through a wall of Marian defenders.

“The key was to pressure their defenders,” Corstange said. “We wanted to be on the attack at all times and make sure they didn’t have an opening to get started.”

Marian’s Ellie Deconinck tied the game at 4:54 of the second half on a strong pass into the middle from Jaclyn Engel, who had recovered a corner kick block by Gull Lake’s Annie Walbridge. Engel dribbled along the left end line and connected with Deconinck, who found an opening inside the 6-yard box.

“I thought we had regained some of the momentum when we scored to tie it up,” Brodsky said, “but they were just deeper than us. They kept coming after us; they’re a very fit team.”

Senior forward Sydney Nikitas broke the tie at 19:43 by converting at short range after a driving pass from the right corner by junior forward Amanda Pavletic, hero of last year’s overtime triumph, to Boze, who pushed the ball to Nikitas in front of the goal.

“Unbelievable feeling to win it two straight years,” said Corstange, who has compiled a 58-7-3 mark in three seasons, to go along with his back-to-back titles. “This is an unselfish group. We use a lot of players, and they all know their roles. Great, great way to end the season.”

Marian finished the season 19-1-1 and allowed only seven goals all spring.

“Tough way to end it,” Brodsky said, “but’s let give credit (to Gull Lake). They earned it.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Richland Gull Lake players and coach Jeff Corstange embrace after securing their second straight Division 2 championship. (Middle) Marian’s Amy Stroud (14) and Gull Lake’s Hannah Phommavongsa work to control a loose ball Saturday.

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.)