Gull Lakes Builds on Variety of Experiences

By Pam Shebest
Special for

April 25, 2016

RICHLAND — Military training is not the usual workout for the Richland Gull Lake soccer team.

But that was just one of the girls’ team-building exercises this month to prepare for their run at a fourth consecutive MHSAA Division 2 title.

The players, along with the Portage Northern soccer team, traveled to Fort Custer in Battle Creek where they were put through a rigorous 3½-hour Leadership Reaction Course led by soldiers from the Michigan Army National Guard.

“The LRC challenged the mental and physical abilities of the players,” Gull Lake coach Jeff Corstange said. “The situations tested the players’ problem-solving abilities and leadership skills.

“It was great to see how each team worked together to complete each task as a team.”

Team bonding exercises are a way of making the players a family. That’s one of the keys to the team’s success, said Corstange, now in his fifth season.

If the Blue Devils win a fourth straight title, the seniors will graduate without a season-ending loss. But they insist that’s not their focus.

“It’s not what I need,” said Blue Devils senior goalkeeper Regan Troff, who has committed to play collegiate soccer at Davenport University in Grand Rapids. “We have goals, just like every team.

“Winning a fourth straight title would be awesome … but it’s not something I need to happen to have fun my senior year.”

Strength of community

This was the second year at Fort Custer for the Gull Lake players.

“The coaches divided us into groups with girls we usually aren’t with,” Troff said. “We all worked well together so there wasn’t any fighting.”

On the first of two courses, the girls worked in groups of six or seven, rotating through five stations in a timed exercise, Corstange said.

At each station, they had to move a 50-gallon drum or 40-pound box, along with other equipment such as ropes or boards, over various obstacle courses.

“The second was a land obstacle course which tested individual strength and speed,” he added. “Each athlete completed two courses which ranged from hurdles, rope swings, climbing to balance and speed.”

Gull Lake will give back to the military when the Blue Devils face Portage Northern in Richland on May 9 for a Military Appreciation Night. The 110th Attack Wing Honor Guard will present the colors at halftime, and active and veteran military personnel including those representing American Legion posts, the Michigan Army National Guard, Air Force, Blue Star and Gold Star mothers will be honored.

“We will serve dinner during the varsity game to the military and their families,” Corstange said. “Each team will wear special jerseys along with a military name on the jersey to honor the military.”

But that will be just one way Gull Lake gets involved with the community this spring. 

A week ago, the players hosted several Special Olympians for practice and drills. On Friday, prior to Gull Lake’s game with Kalamazoo Central, the Special Olympians warmed up with the team and each player walked out with one of the Blue Devils with her name announced over the public address system.

At halftime, the Special Olympians played the Blue Devils’ junior varsity team.

Gull Lake’s varsity defeated Kalamazoo Central, 8-0, and takes a 5-1 record into this week’s action. The only loss so far was 3-1 to DeWitt, ranked second in Division 2. Gull Lake is ranked fifth.

Many ways to win

Gull Lake’s girls won each of their MHSAA championships in a different way.

Taking a 25-1-1 record into the Division 2 Final last year, the Blue Devils faced Fenton – with regulation ending 0-0. Gull Lake finally won 1-0 on penalty kicks.

Choosing which girls to take penalty kicks does not come by happenstance.

“We do a drill toward the end of practice,” Corstange said. “The girls come up to me and tell me and the assistant coaches where (into the net) they’re going to shoot their PKs.

“One of the reasons we do that is to put pressure on them because if they miss, the entire team has to run. If they tell us where they’re going to place their PK and do put it there most of the time, then we know who are our good PK shooters.”

Troff said last year’s title was most stressful, especially with PKs deciding the game

However, “They are all special,” she said. “I remember every single one. 

“I can tell you when people scored, when there was a breakaway, how many corner kicks. I have it all written down. I have the videos.”

For the team’s first MHSAA title, the Blue Devils defeated Bloomfield Hills Marian, 1-0, in two overtimes.

Corstange knew the players would have targets on their backs in 2014, and once again scheduled a tough nonconference schedule.

“We took it game by game in the regular season, setting out to win the (Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference) first before thinking of the postseason,” he said.

Gull Lake faced Marian again in the 2014 Final, winning 2-1 in regulation.

Emma Hanna, a freshman on this year’s squad, said the younger players feel some pressure to keep the winning trend alive.

“I do feel a little pressure. But I do feel like if we do win it, it will be good. But if we don’t win it, it will still be a good time,” she said. 

“I’m having a lot of fun. I’m glad for the experience and what happens, happens.”

Hanna, who plays midfield, said the older players help out a lot.

“The older girls give you a lot of advice,” she said. “I like (practicing against senior) Maddie Fouts, and that helps me a lot.

“They talk to you and let you know what you need to do better. You look up to them because they’ve been doing this for four years, and it helps you a lot prepare for the other teams.”

Like previous champs, this year’s team has its share of interesting back stories.

Senior Lauren Nusbaum broke her foot her sophomore year and was team manager. Her junior season, “I sat,” she said. “It was very nerve-wracking (watching the MHSAA Final) but I knew we were in control.

“When you’re not playing you can see everything, the little mistakes that are made, and you can think, ‘Oh I would have done this or I would have done that.’ I really trusted those girls who were playing.”

And the last line of defense, Troff, was a forward until high school.

“I wanted to try something new,” she said. “I was athletic enough. I didn’t have the technical skills per se, but because I was so athletic I seem to fit pretty well into it.

“I think playing forward helps me now because I know where they’re going to shoot. I know what I would do so I judge what other people will do.”

After losing eight seniors to graduation, this year’s varsity again features eight seniors, four juniors, three sophomores and six freshmen.

Other seniors are Chloe Lipovsky, Lucy Sandell, Anya Jennette, Kenzie Harney and Braedan Snow.

Fouts, Sandell and Troff are team captains. Juniors are Grace Clancy, Elise Blakely, Grace Lehman and Autumn Hoyt. Sophomores are Nicole Miller, Taylor Wesley and Kelsey Jacobs; and other freshmen are Mackenzie Wank, Sophie Tilbury, Avery Cook, Lindsey Buckhout and Maddie Rossen.

“The talent here at Gull Lake, we’ve been gifted with athletes and with (local clubs) Midwest United and Kingdom in the area, for them establishing the girls to where, when they come into the high school season, they are excited about playing,” Corstange said. “We continue to grow soccer players.”

Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Gull Lake's Lucy Sandell (9) works for control of the ball. (Middle) Jeff Corstange and Regan Troff, Lauren Nusbaum and Emma Hanna. (Below) Nusbaum prepares to move the ball upfield for the Blue Devils. (Action photos by Cindy Corstange, The Open Shutter.) 

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.)