Performance: Cadillac's Abby Divozzo

April 21, 2016

Abby Divozzo
Cadillac senior – Soccer

Divozzo was regarded last spring as a top goalkeeper in the northern Lower Peninsula after helping the Vikings to a Big North Conference title with 10 shutouts while giving up only 0.86 goals per game. But an incredible start this spring should put the entire state on notice. The third-year varsity starter has shutouts in all of her team’s first six games and blanked three opponents to lead Cadillac to the Holland Invitational championship Saturday and earn the Michigan National Guard Performance of the Week.

The Vikings beat Holland Black River 2-0, tied Grand Rapids Northview 0-0 and then defeated Holland 2-0, and have increased their start this season to 4-0-2. Divozzo, who has signed to continue her career at Saginaw Valley State University, wasn’t tested much against Black River, but made a key save diving into the top right corner to stop a shot from the 18-yard line and preserve the tie against Northview.

Cadillac graduated only three seniors from last season’s team that finished 14-6-1, so the start this spring hasn’t come as too much of a surprise to the senior keeper. She also was a key contributor to Cadillac’s girls ski team that placed sixth at the MHSAA Division 2 Final this winter, finishing 20th in both the slalom and giant slalom to earn all-state second-team honors in that sport. She’s a strong student sporting a 3.53 grade-point average but is undecided on what she’ll study at SVSU, although she said she enjoys math and science classes and might consider something in the medical field.  

Coach Jen VanNoord said: “I feel so fortunate to have a player like Abby as my goalkeeper. Just knowing she's in net gives me the freedom and the confidence to play a high-pressure formation. She is intense and crazy and calm all at the same time. Abby has the ability to elevate her game when matches are tight … the tougher the match the better she plays. She's also my player that can make a stressed out teammate laugh and relax with her silly sense of humor. Abby is a powerful role model to the young players and a leader in our soccer community. Her confidence and continued growth as a goalkeeper have made an exceptional impact on me over the last three seasons."

Performance Point: “We have a lot of returning players, and we’ve all been playing with each other since we were 8-year-olds. We know how each other plays, know how to work together to keep other teams from scoring.”

Net minder: (I’m strong at) communication, making sure everyone knows what’s going on. I can see the whole field; they might not be able to see the whole thing. … I like that (keeper) is so different from any other position, and so important also. Most people think you’re the goalie, you just stand there. ... When you make a save, and everyone cheers, that’s pretty cool."

Refuse to lose: “I hate losing. I’m going to do anything to make sure that we don’t lose. Making sure people are dropping (into formation), making sure people aren’t left open, just making sure we don’t get scored on. In practice, I’m known as the silly one. But when it’s game time, a little switch goes on, and I’m serious.”

Goalkeeper’s goal: “I want to win a District. Our school hasn’t won a District in girls soccer ever, so obviously that’s the main goal. That would be pretty crazy, just my senior year to finally have that little extra part.”

SVSU, here I come: “The campus is awesome, the staff is awesome. I don’t really know what I want to do, and they’ve got any field of study that I’d want, so it’s a win-win – I get to play soccer and figure out what I want to do at the same place.”

– Geoff Kimmerly, Second Half editor

Every week during the 2015-16 school year, Second Half and the Michigan National Guard will recognize a “Performance of the Week" from among the MHSAA's 750 member high schools.

The Michigan Army National Guard provides trained and ready forces in support of the National Military Strategy, and responds as needed to state, local, and regional emergencies to ensure peace, order, and public safety. The Guard adds value to our communities through continuous interaction. National Guard soldiers are part of the local community. Guardsmen typically train one weekend per month and two weeks in the summer. This training maintains readiness when needed, be it either to defend our nation's freedom, or protecting lives and property of Michigan citizens during a local natural disaster. 

Previous 2015-16 honorees
March 30: Cassius Winston, Detroit U-D Jesuit boys basketball - Read
March 23: Kierra Fletcher, Warren Cousino girls basketball - Read
March 16: Jacob Montague, Grosse Pointe South swimming & diving - Read
March 9: Kyle Tuttle, St. Charles boys bowling - Read
March 2: Brittney Schnicke, Caledonia girls bowling - Read
Feb. 24: Kamari Newman, Detroit East English boys basketball - Read
Feb. 17: Jason Whitens, Powers North Central boys basketball - Read 
Feb. 10: Rachel Hogan, Grand Ledge gymnastics - Read
Feb. 3: Nehemiah Mork, Midland Dow swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 27: Mardrekia Cook, Muskegon girls basketball - Read
Jan. 20: Sage Castillo, Hartland wrestling - Read
Jan. 13: Rob Zofchak, Dexter swimming & diving - Read
Jan. 6: Tyler Deming, Caro wrestling – Read
Dec. 15: Jordan Weber, East Jordan boys basketball – Read
Dec. 8: Kaitlyn Geers, Kent City girls basketball – Read

PHOTOS: (Top) Abby Divozzo (11) surveys the field during Cadillac's game Saturday against Grand Rapids Northview. (Middle) Divozzo launches the ball downfield. (Photos courtesy of Cadillac girls soccer program.)

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

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for

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.)