Gull Lake Returns to State's Elite

June 15, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

WILLIAMSTON – Can one save change a soccer season?

It certainly can alter a championship game, as junior Maggie Harma and Richland Gull Lake found out Saturday afternoon in Williamston.

Bloomfield Hills Marian fired 27 shots during the double-overtime MHSAA Division 2 Final. Harma, the keeper, had to save 13.

But the shot she stopped 30 seconds into the 100-minute game might’ve saved the Blue Devils’ first championship run since 1992, one they finished with a 1-0 victory over the reigning champion Mustangs.

“If it had gone in, our team would’ve been down the whole game trying to come back,” Harma said. “Because I saved it, it kinda gave us the little push we needed: We are here, we deserve to be here, we’re not here by luck. We’re here because we’re good, and we can win this.”

Gull Lake (21-1-1) was a Finals regular during the 1990s. But the current players were either still figuring out how to run or maybe even how to walk when the Blue Devils played in their most recent championship game in 1999.

Marian’s story is nearly the opposite. The Mustangs (17-3-4) have won five titles over the last 11 seasons, including three of the last five in Division 2.  

Gull Lake second-year coach Jeff Corstange was plenty familiar with his program’s previous success, having graduated from the school in 1996.

“That’s one of the things when I came into this coaching role two years ago; I knew what it took to get there,” Corstange said. “These girls were young. They didn’t really know what it was. But I wanted to bring excitement back to Gull Lake.

“The whole community supported us tonight, and they get energy off of that.”

Harma admitted her team was a bit intimidated when Marian first arrived Saturday. But Corstange had emphasized to his players that they deserved to be in the Final, and the numbers said the same.

Gull Lake entered the postseason ranked No. 3, just one spot behind Marian. The Blue Devils gave up only eight goals this season – and including Saturday, not one during the MHSAA tournament.

“It starts with their keeper. She’s a really good keeper. And the four in the back are really good,” Marian coach Barry Brodsky said. “Just for whatever reason, we couldn’t get that last little inch it takes to get it into the goal. I thought we were going to get it the first 30 seconds of the game. Sometimes when you don’t get that goal you think you should, that’s the game right there.”

Gull Lake didn’t get its goal until 3:56 into the first overtime. Sophomore forward Amanda Pavletic, who had 15 goals this season although she wasn’t a starter, found the back of the net and sent the Blue Devils’ supporters into a frenzy.

Like it had in a 1-0 overtime Semifinal win over Spring Lake in the Semifinal, Gull Lake’s defense held strong over the final 16 minutes to secure the win.

“We worked really hard in the preseason, and we knew what we were capable of doing this year,” Corstange said. “All that hard work and determination ... this goes to show we can battle with anybody, being a small school. We welcome the battle. We have a lot of talent out there.”

Click for a full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Gull Lake freshman Kenzie Harney (11) battles with a Bloomfield Hills Marian player for possession during Saturday’s Division 2 Final. (Middle) Marian sophomore Kelly Sweeney (11) pushes the ball past the outstretched foot of Gull Lake’s Olivia Sullivan. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.)