McBain NMC Continues Rise as Coach VanNoord's Leadership Takes Root

By Tom Spencer
Special for

May 6, 2022

COVID-19 prevented Jen VanNoord from receiving a proper soccer sendoff as her time guiding Cadillac’s girls program came to a close.

Her McBain Northern Michigan Christian soccer players certainly have given her a proper welcome.

And, Northern Michigan Soccer League opponents should be cautioned, if they haven’t been already.

We’re not talking about soccer’s red card sendoffs and yellow card cautions. VanNoord, who took the helm at Cadillac High School in 2003, built a strong youth program and took the Vikings from near the bottom to always near, if not at, the top of the Big North Conference going head-to-head with Petoskey, Gaylord, Alpena, Traverse City Central and Traverse City West.

At NMC, VanNoord took over for longtime Comets coach Dave VanHaitsma, who had the program heading the right direction. The Comets have very high expectations this season.

“I knew that in order to build a high school program I had to build the youth program and the love for soccer first – and that's what I did – with the help of so many amazing people,” VanNoord enthusiastically recalled of her time at Cadillac. “Building a program definitely didn't happen overnight, but as the love for soccer grew in the community so did our success as a high school program, and that success continues and our girls youth program is strong.”

Cadillac is off to a 6-1-4 start this season. COVID-19 erased what was supposed to be VanNoord’s final season guiding the Vikings. Cadillac knew VanNoord would step down when her daughter, Jada, entered high school and started playing soccer for NMC.

But with the pandemic starting to impact high school sports in the spring of 2020, Cadillac athletic director Fred Bryant was left regretting that the Vikings didn’t get the chance for a proper sendoff. That entire spring season was canceled after just a few weeks of practice because of the coronavirus.

"Coach VanNoord was an outstanding role model and coach for the girls soccer program as well as the entire soccer community here in Cadillac years before my arrival as athletic director in the fall of 2017,” Bryant said. “My short time with her proved to be nothing different than the previous years, as her experience and professionalism were apparent from the time I first met her. 

“Unfortunately, we knew in advance that the 2020 season would be her last, but COVID abruptly ended her last season here in Cadillac and we did not get the opportunity to give her the true recognition she deserved,” he continued. “I for one am not surprised at all by the immediate impact that she has had on their program."

McBain Northern Michigan Christian soccerThe Comets, with VanNoord at the helm, are off to a 9-0 start and 8-0 in league play. They’ll take on Midland Calvary Baptist this afternoon fresh from a 6-0 win earlier this week over Buckley.

Jada VanNoord had three goals and Paige Ebels scored twice against the Bears. Aria Cucinella also scored.

The Comets were 10-2-1 last year, reaching the league title game and advancing to Regionals. They’re hoping to capture the league title again and make a deeper postseason run.

VanNoord focuses on teaching fundamentals daily, constantly giving encouragement and providing an environment allowing players to thrive no matter the circumstance.

“In my opinion the key to success is to get the most out of each player every day and make them into the best player they can be that day,” she said. “This is going to be different for every girl, and it's probably going to be different every day too.

“Then, I take all the individuals and make them into one cohesive group,” she went on. “Soccer is a physically demanding sport especially in the spring, and it's easy to get discouraged and fatigued. And putting players in the right positions to create that cohesive group makes all the difference in winning and losing a game.”

The Comets are led by high-scoring sophomore Jada VanNoord. Onlookers believe she has already set the school’s single-season record for goals.

You won’t get Coach VanNoord to acknowledge stats, or specifics on the job Mabel Yount, Alaina Rozeveld, Maggie Yount and Sol Pacheco have done shutting down opponents' passing lanes this season.

“I am not one to focus on individual stats,” the coach said.  “Our success comes from putting each other first.

“Our goal is to make each other great.”

And the Comets don’t rely on one player, Jen VanNoord noted.

“If each member on the team focuses on the other members of the team more than themselves, we can build from there and find success,” she said.  “We are successful because we fight for each other, we are relentless for each other, and we constantly build each other up.

“This season we have many tremendous athletes who are fast and physical and strong with a wide variety of soccer specific abilities,” she continued. “No one player can win on their own – it takes every player for us to win.”

She does have to admit it is a dream come true to coach Jada. And she’s coaching the right team despite a continued support for the Vikings.

McBain Northern Michigan Christian soccer“Jada plays with so much joy and confidence that it spills over to her teammates and makes us better as a team,” Jen VanNoord said. “As much as I love the players and the program at Cadillac, I didn't want to miss her high school games to keep coaching there.

“The success NMC had last season and so far this season just solidifies the fact that I'm in the right spot at the right time in my coaching career,” she continued. “I have found a new joy for coaching because of my daughter and her NMC teammates.”

Coach VanNoord grew up in Southern California and fell in love with the game of soccer at a young age.

“I played it as often as I could, and in California you can play soccer every day,” she said.

Her family moved to Grand Rapids when she was in high school. She played for Grand Rapids Christian High School and longtime coach Larry Klaasen, who VanNoord describes as “an incredible teacher of the game.”

Klaasen, who also taught history for 21 years at Grand Rapids Christian before retiring, guided the boys soccer program for 32 seasons and the girls for 23. He stepped down as the girls coach after the 2011 season.

VanNoord started her coaching career as the junior varsity coach under Klaasen. She went on to play collegiate soccer at Calvin College.

“I found a lot of success on the field as a player but also had some amazing coaches that continued to make me into a coach that loves to play the game, loves my players and loves teaching the game,” VanNoord said.

Bill Anderson, a longtime youth and high school soccer official and referee assignor, first met VanNoord at a pick-up soccer game shortly after she took the Cadillac job.

“While she is always respectful, she certainly has a way of speaking that gets your attention when she wants to,” Anderson said. “Her players clearly love and respect her.

“Apart from that, the record speaks for itself.”

Tom Spencer is a longtime MHSAA-registered basketball and soccer official, and former softball and baseball official, and he also has coached in the northern Lower Peninsula area. He previously has written for the Saginaw News, Bay County Sports Page and Midland Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS (Top) McBain Northern Michigan Christian’s Jada VanNoord (20) clears the ball against Big Rapids Crossroads backed by defenders Mabel Yount (18), Alaina Rozeveld, Maggie Yount (26) and Sol Pacheco (8). (Middle) NMC coach Jen VanNoord directs her team during the eventual win. (Below) Sofia Rubio (14) controls the ball while Crossroads’ Jackie Cole attempts to gain possession. (Photos by Mike Dunn/Missaukee Sentinel.)

'Where is Spring Lake?' They'll Know Now as Lakers Begin Reign Atop D2

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING – Ella Andree and Clara Saunders started recording a three-part Tik Tok on the opening day of Spring Lake’s girls soccer season, knowing that in order to film Parts 2 and 3 they would need to advance to, and win, the MHSAA Division 2 Final.

On Saturday, they finished the video.

Spring Lake defeated Bloomfield Hills Marian 1-0 at DeMartin Stadium to avenge a 2021 championship match loss to the Mustangs and claim the first Finals title in school history.

“If we won, we had it ready,” Andree said. “We did win, so I hope it looks good.

“The start of our season was a little rough, we had a lot of ties, and we didn’t really know where we were going to end up. But we pulled it together and figured out what players needed to do what, and to be here is super crazy.”

Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Clair Dauer (16) and Spring Lake’s Elaina Furton work for possession.Andree assisted Aveya Patino on the game’s lone goal, and goalkeeper Jessica Stewart made four saves behind a stout Spring Lake defense to give coach Becky May her first title in her eighth season coaching at her alma mater. That it came on the campus where May played collegiately only made it more sweet.

“Extremely proud of my girls, but just proud of West Michigan, our community and how we’ve been able to step up and really make a name for ourselves in the soccer world,” May said. “I played on this field in college, so as a homecoming for me, here’s why it’s important: When I got announced the first time I started at Michigan State, they announced me from Spring Lake, Michigan, and the girl next to me said, ‘Where in the world is Spring Lake?’ No one heard of anyone outside the sub(urb)s of Detroit. Well, they’ve heard of us now. So I’m very proud.”

The 2021 championship match appearance was Spring Lake’s first, and that ended with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Marian. Andree, Saunders and Stewart were among the players on the field Saturday who had played in that game as freshmen, and getting another shot at the Mustangs certainly added motivation.

“I feel like to replay the team that you originally lost to is always a great feeling,” Saunders said. “It’s just like a second chance. We have gotten a lot better, and I’m just glad that we made it back here. Especially for my senior year. We came out and did what every team wishes to do, is go all the way, and then we won it. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of this team.”

Saturday’s match was tightly contested, with both teams having long stretches of possession but not creating many big scoring chances.

The one that hit the back of the net started when Andree won a ball in the corner and played it across the goal. Marian keeper Dani Mertz was able to get a hand on it, but not all of it, and Patino was there to clean it up, scoring the 29th goal of her freshman season. It was also the first goal Marian (15-4-3) had allowed during the postseason.

Spring Lake players begin their celebration.“You can’t coach speed, (Patino and Andree are) born with those wheels, and all you have to do as a coach is just put them in the right spot, get them to work together, and they’re just going to be destructive from beginning to end,” May said. “So even when they don’t find the back of the net, they’re putting defenses on their heels and they have to respond to them and react to them. As a result of that, that gives us much more opportunity to possess in the middle of the field. So we put them up top, let them run havoc and then enjoy the benefits of that.”

From there, Spring Lake (17-2-5) stood tall defensively, not allowing the Mustangs to get a great chance to tie the game. With a back three of seniors Ella Rabideau and Brooke Bolthouse and junior Lauren Nicles playing in front of the experienced Stewart, May felt comfortable. Marian, meanwhile, was left frustrated as plenty of second-half possession failed to result in many opportunities. 

“They defended with five,” Marian coach Danny Price said. “I watched the Midland game where they played them in the Regional Final, and both of their outside backs were flying forward and they gave us a ton of space. In the first half, they did the same thing. After they scored their goal, they dropped their outside backs really deep and defended with five, which is what we’ve done in the postseason as well. I’ve got to give them props for that, they defended quite resolutely.”

Price was in his first season at Marian, and took over a young squad, as the Mustangs graduate a strong, but small (four) senior class.

“We’ll be back,” he said. “We’ve got a young squad, and we’ve got tons of freshmen coming in; we’ll just reload. We’ll be back here again.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Spring Lake keeper Jessica Stewart, in green, goes high to get a hand on the ball Saturday at DeMartin Stadium. (Middle) Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Clair Dauer (16) and Spring Lake’s Elaina Furton work for possession. (Below) Spring Lake players begin their celebration.