MHSA(Q&)A: Soccer Coaches President Zach Jonker

September 21, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Zach Jonker has had his hands – or, perhaps, feet – on just about every facet of soccer in this state over the last 20 years.

He played on a Class B Semifinalist at Petoskey before graduating in 1995, then earned four letters and served as a captain at Hope College. He came back home to teach social studies and became coach of both boys and girls varsities that are regularly among the northern Lower Peninsula's elite, but also are highly-regarded statewide. And this fall, he began the first of a two-year term as president of the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association. 

So he can speak first-hand on the benefits of playing high school soccer in Michigan, which is good news to get out perhaps now more than ever. Michigan high school soccer is facing a predicament unlike any it has tackled before – the creation by U.S. Soccer of its Development Academy, a set of travel teams all over the country that train nearly year-round and are meant to eventually fuel the men's national team. That opportunity has drawn a number of top Michigan players out of high school soccer.

Jonker and his coaching brethren are monitoring that situation closely, while continuing to lead their teams into the second half of this fall boys season. His Northmen are 6-7-1 overall this fall, but have faced three of the top-five ranked teams in Division 1 and another from Division 2.

Despite your location near the tip of the Lower Peninsula, you still manage to schedule strong competition. How do you make it work?

We’re in a really nice spot. Traverse City hosts a tournament during the regular season with Traverse City Central, Traverse City West and Petoskey, and then they invite three schools from downstate that have generally been (Warren) DeLaSalle, Clarkston and Ann Arbor Skyline. The following weekend, we host a similar format with Rochester Hills Stoney Creek and Bloomfield Hills Lahser. We get six really good games at the start of the season with two tournaments. It’s early in the season and teams love coming up, making a weekend out of it, hitting the beach and doing some bonding. And the fields at Traverse City and Petoskey are both beautiful, which helps teams commit, plus the three of us are very competitive.

We’re coming down next weekend to play East Lansing, and we always schedule a couple of those. Last year, Mason came up here. It’s definitely a commitment in terms of travel during the course of the year, but from a Petoskey standpoint, I don’t care about our nonleague record. We’re using those games to get better for our league and better for the (MHSAA) tournament. The only tough thing is putting that in perspective for the kids.

What is something happening in high school soccer that the coaches association is proudest about right now?

We’re always looking at it from the other side, what we want to make better. But one of our main goals as an association is to properly recognize players. And I think the process we have in place for giving all-district, all-regional and all-state recognition and ultimately the selection of the Dream Team, I think that’s a very good model that enables us as an association to truly recognize players who put the work in and had a successful season. We also redesigned our web site this past season, and we’ve done a lot of the all-state process online, which a lot of coaches really liked because it cut down travel time for meetings.

Is anything new on the horizon?

A lot of coaches are really interested in seeing what the long-term impact of the (U.S.) Academy ruling is. Everyone’s initial take is we’re seeing increased parity round the state as the result of 120 kids electing not to play high school soccer this year. Obviously, all of those players are good players playing at a high level, and people are interested in seeing at the end of the season if kids are going to have missed playing in front of their communities, and if kids are going to migrate back to high school soccer. There’s talk of U.S. Soccer adding a U-14 academy. They’re trying to expand.

What has been the reaction so far to the U.S. Academy?

For certain players, the academy makes sense. They’re in a professional training environment 10 months out of the year. But those guys not on the professional track would be equally served by playing high school soccer and playing club like we always have. (U.S. Soccer) is doing a lot of this to benefit the top one percent of players. It’s the main frustration from the coaches.

Everyone kind of understands why U.S. Soccer is headed down that path, and it impacted each (high school) team differently. Some programs lost upwards of 8-10 kids as a result. Some didn’t lose any.

In terms of geographic parity, we’re already seeing that. Two years ago, west side teams won all four championships. Last year, Detroit teams won all four. Now we’re going to see more parity within districts, within conferences. And I think we’ll see scores closer than in the past.

What role should high school soccer play compared to club, the academy, etc.?

I equate it as playing for your national team. When you put your school colors on, go out with your friends that you’ve played with since kindergarten, it’s really special. They can’t even begin to match the rivalries we have with high school soccer, the amount of passion that exists within our game and the number of fans that show up at these games. At an academy game, you might have a handful of parents on the sideline, that’s it, and a few college coaches watching. But you can’t match the high school experience and the passion that exists. Kids are going to miss that, and we’ll get kids back because of that.

Do your players see an MHSAA championship differently because so many elite players aren’t participating in high school?

It doesn’t even register with these guys. The (MHSAA) championships are going to be awarded in November, and for whoever wins this year, it will be just as meaningful for these guys as the guys who won last year.

Does soccer get a bump from U.S. national team success like swimming or gymnastics might during Olympic years?

Any time it’s a World Cup year, men’s or women’s, the players get really excited about the experience. It gets them enthused to get out and train. I don’t think kids watch enough soccer in this country, and that’s one of the big issues we have. Ultimately, what’s holding us back at the national team level is kids are not growing up in a culture of soccer on television like in other countries against which we compete. In a World Cup year, kids get excited, and they watch more soccer, and the play is better on the field.

How much has high school soccer changed since you played?

There are just so many more layers of sophistication, tactically. We had good athletes playing at that point, and we have good athletes playing now. But as a country, we’ve evolved from a coaching standpoint. The kids are getting better technical training at a younger age, and are much better tactically. There are many more teams now emphasizing more possession-based (play). What else has helped the evolution is getting off playing on football fields. During the (19)80s and 90s, a lot of games were played on them, and it made it hard to possess the ball when the turf was chewed up. Soccer-specific fields have helped the game evolve.

What will Michigan high school soccer look like five years from now?

I like the path we’re headed down. The number one thing going forward is seeing what happens with the evolution of the academy program – do kids come back, or does the academy program grow? Regardless, the kids playing high school soccer are going to have a great experience, and there are a lot of really good coaches in high school soccer, a lot of really great referees and administrators. That makes the game special. I see us continuing to have the best going forward.

PHOTO: Petoskey senior Noah Honaker goes high while surrounded by defenders to head a ball during a game this season. (Photo courtesy of Dean Viles.) 

Hollenbaugh Surpasses Older Sister to Net Quincy's Goal-Scoring Record

By Scott Hassinger
Special for

May 28, 2024

QUINCY – Sami Hollenbaugh aspires to become a successful realtor one day, and has the next steps toward that goal mapped out.

Southwest CorridorBut she already has made a big impact in the world of high school girls soccer as Quincy's striker the last four years.

Entering last week's 8-0 Division 3 District Quarterfinal win over Springport, Hollenbaugh had scored a school-record 89 career goals. Sami's older sister Emily Hollenbaugh, a 2020 graduate, previously held the mark.

Hollenbaugh's exposure to soccer began as a 5-year-old in the local AYSO programs in Quincy and Coldwater. A year ago, Sami joined the Jackson Jaguars, a travel soccer team, to prepare for her senior year.

"My mom put all us kids into AYSO when I was younger. That's where it all started, and I was also playing softball back then. After a while, I decided just to play soccer, and I've stuck with it ever since,” Sami Hollenbaugh said. “I just like scoring goals,"

Another of her favorite aspects is getting her teammates involved.

"I enjoy other girls who don't have as many opportunities to get chances to shoot and score. I just always want to do what's best for my team," Hollenbaugh said.

Hollenbaugh's two biggest influences are her older sister and her mother Melanie Hollenbaugh.

Hollenbaugh (1) brings the ball upfield during a match."In my freshman and sophomore years, I compared myself a lot to Emily, but then I realized I didn't have to do (that) and just went out to be as competitive as I could,” Sami Hollenbaugh said. “My mom also keeps our stat book, and she's real good about keeping me upbeat and not letting me get down on myself during a match.”

Quincy (14-4-1) won the Independent Soccer League and looks to capture a second-straight District championship later this week. The Orioles' 2023 season ended with a 7-0 loss to Williamston in the Regional Semifinals.  

Hollenbaugh is one of four seniors on an 18-player roster dominated by underclassmen. Piper Eby, Grace Lindsley and Tessa Henry are the Orioles' other seniors.

"This year we have a lot of juniors, new girls and freshmen. It took us a little while to get where we are now, and we've improved a lot,” Hollenbaugh said. “Our midfield is very strong, and offensively we're getting more free balls. We spend an incredible amount of time working on shooting at the goal. I try to get as many reps at practice and at home as possible.”

After graduation, Hollenbaugh plans to study interior design at Michigan State University. Collegiate soccer is not on the radar, but she does plan on playing at the intramural level.

The real estate field has always interested her.

"I've just always enjoyed looking at homes. I go on the Zillow app a lot and have always pictured my family or myself living in a particular home," Hollenbaugh said.

Outside of soccer, Hollenbaugh is involved with National Honor Society, student council and is a member of Quincy's Varsity Club.

Olivet (14-3-3) squares off against Battle Creek Pennfield (13-5-1) in Thursday's other District Semifinal match. Winners will meet in Saturday's 10 a.m. title game with the champion advancing to the Williamston Regional.

"We had some early struggles while some of our younger players learned our system. If we can clean a few things up, I feel we have a good shot to keep advancing," said Quincy's eighth-year head coach Ivan Swift, who had been Hollenbaugh's only coach since she began playing the sport.

Eighth-year Quincy varsity girls soccer coach Ivan Swift has been Hollenbaugh's coach since she began playing soccer at age 5. "I started coaching AYSO soccer and have been Sami's coach through the various levels. About a year ago, I reached out and suggested to her that she should play travel soccer to get another coach's perspective. That experience has really helped her grow as a player. You can really see the improvement she's made this spring.”

Andy Hosmer, also head women's coach at Jackson Community College and Brooklyn Columbia Central, coached Hollenbaugh with the Jackson Jaguars.

"Sami is a very driven person. Records are meant to be broken, and I've tried to let her know all season just where she is at to accomplish those,” Swift said. “After she has graduated, I'll do the same for the other girls. Those kinds of situations help motivate your players to improve.”

Even a leg injury hasn't deterred Hollenbaugh from reaching her goals.

"Sami has battled a pulled right quad most of this season, but has only missed one match. It’s benefited her because now she's developed a good shot with her left leg when she needs to and continues to score. I think that just shows her level of determination," Swift said.

Freshman forward/midfield Laura Bostic is second in scoring for the Orioles with 22 goals, to go with 10 assists. "Laura will be a bright spot for years to come," Swift said.

Makenzie Maynard has 13 goals and four assists, Abby Hinds has nine goals and eight assists, and Sade Harges has scored six goals with three assists. Other Quincy standouts include Mackenzie Maynard, Ciaira Paul, Claire Robertson, Danica Swift, Adriana Welch and Ella Bartell.

"We call Abby 'Big Time' because she's got a real strong leg and distributes the ball very well. She takes most of our free and corner kicks and is kind've our point guard in the middle of the field," Ivan Swift said.

The Orioles are experienced on the defensive backline with three juniors playing key roles. Danica Swift, daughter of the head coach, is in her third varsity season as Quincy's starting goalkeeper.

Quincy's biggest wins this season came over Adrian Lenawee Christian 3-1 in conference play, along with a 4-1 victory over Brooklyn Columbia Central.

Scott HassingerScott Hassinger is a contributing sportswriter for Leader Publications and previously served as the sports editor for the Three Rivers Commercial-News from 1994-2022. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Quincy senior striker Sami Hollenbaugh, far right, celebrates with a teammate after scoring this season. (Middle) Hollenbaugh (1) brings the ball upfield during a match. (Below) Eighth-year Quincy varsity girls soccer coach Ivan Swift has been Hollenbaugh's coach since she began playing soccer at age 5. (Action photos by Troy Tennyson/Coldwater Daily Reporter; Swift headshot by Scott Hassinger.)