Keeper Hopes to Help North Muskegon Take Championship Step

By Tom Kendra
Special for

May 26, 2021

Syann Fairfield says she won’t let anything stop her from leading her team to the Division 4 girls soccer championship.

But don’t take her word for it. Look at her actions.

The last time North Muskegon’s girls soccer team was making a tournament run, Fairfield suffered a nasty eye injury early in the second half of a 2019 Regional championship game win over Houghton Lake.

“I went down to grab the ball and took a knee to my eye,” Fairfield recalled with, of all things, a laugh. “I had to come out for a concussion test and to make sure I could see, but then I went right back in. I was not going to let us lose in the Regional Finals because I had to go out.”

Fairfield is the daughter of Jenny DeJohn and Muskegon High School football coach Shane Fairfield, so she grew up as a ball girl and water girl for her dad’s teams and says she learned about toughness and teamwork in the process.

North Muskegon, which is 14-1-1 and ranked No. 1 in Division 4, hopes that the experience of Fairfield and the team’s other seven seniors will be enough to lift the Norse to the school’s first soccer state championship after heartbreaking 1-0 Semifinal losses to Kalamazoo Christian in 2018 and 2019.

“We definitely have a special team,” said senior forward Emily Olsen, one of four senior captains along with defender Sophia Schotts, midfielder Audrey Wilson and forward Hope Johnson.

“We’ve come so close in the past. We’re giving 100 percent every day and hope that makes the difference this time.”

If the popular school of thought holds that a championship soccer team starts in the back with the goalkeeper and defense, then the top-ranked Norse might just be ready to break through.

Fairfield, who first-year head coach Caleb Parnin calls “one of the greatest athletes that North Muskegon has ever had,” is a dominant, 6-foot-1 keeper and the final line of defense for a team that has allowed just four goals all season.

North Muskegon girls soccerFairfield benefits from a pair of standout defenders in Schotts and junior Grace Vander Woude, but the real secret of this North Muskegon team is the combination of great senior leadership and up-and-coming and talented underclassmen at every position.

Fairfield, an all-state middle hitter who will play volleyball next year at Ferris State, injured her ankle late in the basketball season and missed the first several weeks of this soccer season. But she used that time to mentor freshman keeper Emma Lamiman.

The same is true at midfield, where the dominant Wilson missed time earlier this month with an ankle injury, forcing promising freshmen Spencer Zizak and Allie Jensen to be thrown into the heat of the battle.

The leaders up front are the lethal 1-2 combination of Johnson, the leading scorer with 25 goals and 16 assists, and Olsen, whose powerful right leg has produced 19 goals and 18 assists. Among the youngsters learning from those two everyday are sophomores Natalie Pannucci (11 goals, 6 assists) and Jaley Schultz and freshman Kennedi Koekkoek – who scored the most memorable goal of the season with two seconds remaining to salvage a 2-2 tie against No. 2-ranked Lansing Christian.

“When I was out, Spencer and Allie stepped up and now they’re both playing with so much confidence,” said Wilson, who was still taking it easy at Tuesday’s practice. “So, sometimes injuries help the team in the long run, but I will definitely be back and ready to go.”

The Norse suffered their only loss of the season against visiting Division 1 school Holland West Ottawa, 1-0, on April 24, a game in which Johnson did not play.

The tie against Lansing Christian came on May 17, when the Norse found themselves trailing 2-0 at halftime. Johnson cut the lead in half with a goal on a penalty kick, before the harried final moments, when Schotts put a shot on goal and Koekkoek converted the rebound just before time expired.

North Muskegon played its last game May 21, a tight 2-1 win at Ludington. With no conference tournament in the West Michigan Conference, the Norse will have an 11-day layoff before their District opener June 1.

“Honestly, we’re excited to have this extra practice time, because our coaching staff really thinks we can bring these girls to the next level,” said Parnin, who is assisted by Chris Wilson, Pete Johnson, Adam Schultz and Kim Gorbach – the program’s junior varsity and goalkeeper coach.

North Muskegon girls soccerParnin, a 2003 North Muskegon graduate who played collegiate soccer at Trinity International University near Chicago, returned home in the fall of 2019 to teach English at his alma mater. The plan was to serve a one-year apprenticeship as Ryan Berends’ assistant, before COVID-19 wiped out last spring’s season.

Parnin, who compared coaching this year’s talented team with “being handed the keys to a Corvette,” has made a point of getting more girls out for soccer. His work is paying dividends with 34 high school girls soccer players, nearly double the number from 2019, with the ability to field a junior varsity team.

While the future looks bright for the program, right now everyone’s focus is on this year’s tournament – where another potential showdown with No. 3-ranked Kalamazoo Christian looms, as well as a possible rematch against Lansing Christian in the Final on June 19 at Michigan State University.

If those clashes come to fruition, Parnin is well aware they could be decided by a shootout, in which case he feels very confident with Fairfield in the net.

“I couldn’t trust anyone more than I trust Syann,” said Parnin. “When we do our penalty kick drills, Syann wins. I mean, she shuts it down.

“She has the size and athletic ability, but she also has that intangible quality of a great athlete where she welcomes the challenge.”

Tom Kendra worked 23 years at The Muskegon Chronicle, including five as assistant sports editor and the final six as sports editor through 2011. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Muskegon, Oceana, Mason, Lake, Oceola, Mecosta and Newaygo counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) North Muskegon senior keeper Syann Fairfield boots the ball during a game against Holland West Ottawa. The Norse have allowed just four goals in 16 games this spring. (Middle) North Muskegon senior captain Emily Olsen, who has 19 goals and 18 assists, leaps before making a play on the ball. (Below) Norse senior captain Audrey Wilson, who has 16 goals and 10 assists, battles for possession of the ball. (Photos by Rhonda Kinahan.)

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.)