Heethuis Retires from Unity Boys, Readying Another Girls Title Contender

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

April 21, 2022

HUDSONVILLE – Randy Heethuis has cut his coaching workload in half.

The longtime and successful Unity Christian soccer coach announced last month that he’ll be stepping down from the boys program after 28 years at the helm.

Heethuis is still coaching the girls squad this spring, however, after a health scare last fall altered his priorities.

Heethuis suffered a small stroke following the boys season in October and underwent heart surgery in November to close a hole in his heart.

“When something like that occurs in your life, it causes you to take a step back and reflect a little bit and reprioritize things,” said Heethuis, who guided the boys to five state championships and seven Finals appearances during his tenure.

“As far as I know it’s all good and I’m feeling great, but it’s one of those medical experiences that at my age causes you to reevaluate.”

Heethuis, who turns 60 in a couple months, said he also felt the desire to spend more time with his growing family.

His fifth grandchild was recently born, with another one on the way this fall.

“Just being more accessible to spend time with them and be able to help out with them and go to their games,” Heethuis said. “That was also a big piece of the equation, and as long as I’ve been doing this it gets tougher and tougher. I just felt like all things considered, and at my age, that it was becoming increasingly more difficult for me to give 100 percent to both programs.”

“It was an extremely difficult decision, but I just really felt that this is what I was being led to and it’s been a great run,” Heethuis said. “I’ve enjoyed 28 years doing that, and over the years I’ve really been blessed to have some fine families and awesome siblings to coach.

“It was a real blessing for me to coach that long, but I just felt like someone a little younger and with more energy might have an opportunity to put their stamp on the program and to carry the torch moving forward.”

Heethuis has been asked why he decided to keep coaching the girls and not the boys.

There wasn’t any strong reasoning behind it other than he began his career coaching the girls at Unity 33 years ago.

“I coached the girls for five years before taking on the boys, and this is a nice way to bookend a coaching career,” Heethuis said. “I’m not sure how long the good Lord will bless me to continue (with) the girls, but for the foreseeable future I would like to continue in that respect. Only time will tell.”

Hudsonville Unity Christian soccerHeethuis (502-90-52) ranks among the winningest coaches in MHSAA boys soccer history and tops the list for girls coaches (579-102-38) having also led the Crusaders girls to 10 Finals championships.

The girls opened this season with a tough 1-0 loss to a talented Hudsonville squad, but are unbeaten since. 

“I was pleased with how hard our girls competed and played hard and battled, but unfortunately, we came up one goal short,” Heethuis said. “Those are the types of games, as a coach, you hope will make you better moving forward.”

Unity, which is led by returning players Morgan Scholten (goalkeeper), Brianna Rose, Jessie Postma, Jenna Schreiber, Laura Moberg, Jade Taylor, Kyah VanKoevering and Molly Vollink, reached the Division 3 Semifinals last season before losing to Boyne City in a shootout.

“Last year this group snuck up on some people and had a great year,” Heethuis said. “The only game we lost was in the state Semifinal and we were two or three minutes away from making it to the Finals. 

“I think we have to try and build on that and hopefully the girls have a hunger for getting back there and wanting to do that again and take it a step further.”

Rose, a junior, believes this year's team can replicate last year's success.

"We have a lot of potential," she said. "We have great additions and returning girls on the team. So far, you can see the motivation in everyone from last season’s tough loss. Everyone on the team shows up and works hard not only for themselves, but more importantly for each other.

"We want to win another state title. Who wouldn’t? And hopefully we can make the season last as long as it can. What I think sets our team apart from the rest is the bond and hard work we do for ourselves and each other with the main goal of honoring our Lord."

The Crusaders have a balanced mix of returning players and newcomers who will attempt to keep the program’s commitment to excellence intact.

“It’s early, but the chemistry on this team is really good and it’s a fun group to be around,” Heethuis said. “We will hopefully take it one game at a time and get better as the season goes on, because there’s real potential there to get it all put together by the end of the year. We hope to do it sooner than later.”

Dean Holzwarth has covered primarily high school sports for Grand Rapids-based WOOD-TV for four 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) Unity Christian soccer coach Randy Heethuis and his boys team prepare for the kickoff of the 2018 Division 3 Final. (Middle) Heethuis accepts the Division 3 championship trophy with his girls team in 2016. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

Williams Returns as Hudsonville Seeks Next Step in Pursuit of 1st Finals Title

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for MHSAA.com

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.)