Pilgrims Convert, Claim Elusive Soccer Prize

June 17, 2017

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

WILLIAMSTON – About three weeks ago, Lansing Christian girls soccer coach Joel Vande Kopple said junior goalkeeper Lynn Cullens came to him at practice with what couldn’t have been classified as uplifting words.

“She says, ‘Coach, we are not going to win a state championship with me in goal on penalty kicks,’” Vande Kopple said. “We just kept working with her.”

Fast forward to Saturday’s Division 4 championship game against Kalamazoo Christian, and guess what situation Lansing Christian found itself in?

You guessed it, penalty kicks.

After giving up the tying goal with 3:03 left in overtime, a dejected Lansing Christian team had to regroup and see its goalie face her worst fears in pursuit of an elusive first MHSAA girls soccer title in school history.

But Cullens rose above her shootout fears, making a save and seeing another shot go off of the crossbar.

Thanks to those two failed conversions and four successful ones by Lansing Christian, the Pilgrims finally delivered a long-awaited title with a 2-1 shootout victory.

“It was very nerve-wracking,” Cullens said. “That was the worst spot I could’ve thought of being in, but I just had to trust in God all the way and I did. It ended up pretty well. I had to stop doubting myself.”

After dominating the play during regulation but failing to produce a goal, it looked like Lansing Christian wasn’t going to need a shootout.

With 7:22 left in the first overtime period, sophomore Rilyn Ross beautifully headed home a service into the box by sophomore Jackie Moore to make it 1-0 Lansing Christian.

With Pilgrims fans counting down the minutes in anticipation of the first MHSAA title in program history, Kalamazoo Christian had an answer.

With 3:03 remaining in the second period of overtime, the Comets got an opportunity with a corner kick and sent all 11 players into the box, including senior keeper Allyson Kranstz.

All the commotion in the box paid off, as freshman Lauryn Mohney headed in a perfect service by senior Meagan Laaksonen to tie the game 1-1.

“We had to do something,” Kalamazoo Christian coach Jay Allen said. “My goalie in practice has always wanted to be a forward, so this was her chance.”

Kalamazoo Christian was obviously the much more upbeat team going into the shootout, prompting Vande Kopple to turn into a motivational speaker.

“We wanted to make sure that we were very positive,” Vande Kopple said. “We have been in this position before. We have given up late goals before, and we have always found a way to win.”

Both Lansing Christian sophomore Kealeigh Usiak and Kalamazoo Christian’s Laaksonen scored in the first round of the shootout, and then Lansing Christian sophomore Abby Lyon scored to start the second.

Cullens then dove to her left to stop Kalamazoo Christian leading scorer Kayla Beebe to give the Pilgrims an early edge.

Kranstz answered by stopping Lansing Christian leading scorer Kasey Jamieson to start the third round, but the Pilgrims maintained a lead after Kalamazoo Christian hit the crossbar.

After goals by Lansing Christian junior Jessie Kruger and Kalamazoo Christian senior Annika VanZytveld in the fourth round, Pilgrims sophomore Eliza Lewis scored to clinch the title.

The Pilgrims (23-2-2) previously had lost in the 2015 and 2011 championship games. Making its first Finals appearance since 2008, Kalamazoo Christian finished 20-3-3.

Kranstz made 13 saves in goal for the Comets.

Click for the full box score

PHOTOS: (Top) Lansing Christian celebrates during its first Division 4 championship win. (Middle) Abigail Dykema helps clear the goal for Kalamazoo Christian.

McBain Northern Michigan Christian's VanNoord Building on Career Excellence

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.)