North Muskegon Surges Again to Cap Storybook Season

By Tom Kendra
Special for

June 19, 2021

EAST LANSING – Caleb Parnin has been playing a little mind game on his North Muskegon girls soccer team all season long.

“We’ve been telling the girls all year that we are a second-half team,” said Parnin. “Honestly, part of that is just brainwashing them to believe it, and then hoping they make it a reality.”

It proved to be masterful strategy by the first-year coach, as the Norse worked their second-half magic again Saturday. They turned a 1-0 halftime lead into a 5-0 runaway over Royal Oak Shrine Catholic in the MHSAA Division 4 Final at Michigan State University’s DeMartin Soccer Complex, clinching the first Finals championship in program history.

Hope Johnson, NM’s senior leader and top scorer, set up sophomore Jaley Schulz for the lone goal of the first half in brilliant fashion – then started the second-half onslaught with a breakaway goal seven minutes after the restart.

Emily Olsen, Katie Kinahan and Audrey Wilson also tallied for North Muskegon, which finished with a 20-1-1 record.

Johnson, who has played with many of these teammates since she was 4 years old, said they were excited for the chance to play on the state’s biggest stage.

“We were always waiting for the next challenge and for the opportunity to show what we can do,” said Johnson, who added two assists to finish with 37 goals and 23 assists this spring. “Today was that day.”

North Muskegon dominated the game, finishing with a 22-6 edge in total shots and a 12-2 advantage in shots on goal.

That performance was a continuation from the second half of Wednesday’s Semifinal win over top-ranked Grandville Calvin Christian, when the Norse scored two goals after halftime in a 2-0 win. NM allowed only one second-half goal the entire season.

Royal Oak Shrine, which was the reigning Division 4 champion after downing Kalamazoo Christian 4-0 in the 2019 Final, finished 14-4-1 and lost its first game since April.

The Knights played their best soccer in the final 20 minutes of the first half, controlling play for a long stretch after Schulz’s opening goal.

Shrine was ultimately denied by the Norsemen’s stingy defense, led by senior Sophia Schotts and junior Grace VanderWoude. The other defensive leaders for NM were junior Molly Stewart and freshmen Abby Martinez and Kennedi Koekkoek.

North Muskegon soccer“This season was something special,” said 21st-year Shrine coach Mark Soma, who had just three senior starters. “Things got away from us in the second half, and a lot of that had to do with being young and tired and making mistakes.”

On the rare occasions that the Knights got past the Norse defense and had scoring opportunities, NM senior keeper Syann Fairfield shut the door.

Fairfield, the daughter of Muskegon High School football coach Shane Fairfield, showed her toughness by coming well out of her box and challenging shots repeatedly.

“Syann is so tough, and she was determined to get that shutout,” said Parnin, who is assisted by Chris Wilson, Pete Johnson, Adam Schulz and goalkeeper coach Kim Gorbach. “She senses things and goes out and stops them before they happen. Nothing she does surprises me.”

The early part of the game was played in a steady rain, but by early in the second half the rain had moved out, leaving dry and extremely calm conditions.

It was a perfect stage for Johnson to work her magic, repeatedly drawing Shrine’s defenders to her with her breakaway speed and then dropping the ball off to her teammates. A perfect example came on the opening goal, when Johnson dribbled the ball across the goal mouth, bringing Shrine’s keeper with her, then slid it back to Schulz, who was unmarked, for an easy goal.

“Hope just finagled her way around a couple of defenders, like she does, got the goalie out of position and left it for me,” explained Schulz. “I just tapped it in.”

It was fitting that three of NM’s senior captains scored goals (Johnson, Olsen and Wilson), while the fourth – Schotts – led the defensive effort.

While the season had a storybook finish with the school’s first Finals championship, it was understandably bittersweet.

“This is such a great group of girls, and we all love each other so much,” said Johnson. “I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do not seeing them all the time.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) North Muskegon’s girls soccer team celebrates its first Finals championship Saturday at MSU. (Middle) The Norse’s Natalie Pannucci (4) moves the ball ahead amid the midday downpour.

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.)