TC West Making Homes Away from Home to Lead Tie-Filled Big North Standings

By Tom Spencer
Special for

May 5, 2023

Almost as many Big North Conference girls soccer games have resulted in ties as wins so far this weather-challenged spring.

Northern Lower PeninsulaAnd, tonight, Petoskey and Traverse City West will play a snow day makeup game that could be the equalizer between wins and ties.

There really is lots of excitement, however, in the Big North. There are two new coaches, Ed Fantozzi at West, and Gregg Supiran at Alpena. Supiran, a longtime assistant at Alpena, succeeded Tim Storch, who is among the winningest coaches in Michigan boys and girls soccer history.

And, hopefully in the fall when the boys take the pitch, West will have its new complex ready for play. If not, the girls team should open it next spring.

West leads the conference at 3-0-1. The tie was at the hands of Gaylord, now 1-1-2. Petoskey enters tonight at 1-0-3. Traverse City Central is 2-1-1. Alpena is 1-2-1 and Cadillac is 1-5-0.

West is coming off a 2-0 win over Cadillac at one of its temporary “home” fields, at the Trojan Athletic Complex. The complex, home of Traverse City Central, opened three years ago after the district’s successful $107-million bond campaign that funded construction. The same bond is funding improvements at West.

West has played most of its home games at Trojans’ complex including a 2-0 win over its rival earlier this spring. A rematch, with Central officially the home team, is scheduled for next week.

Other home games for West, as was the same for the boys last fall, have been played at Keystone County Park, home of Traverse Bay Area Youth Soccer.

The win for West over Central put the Titans in the driver’s seat to repeat as conference champs. Cadillac finished second last year as West’s final-game victory over Petoskey clinched a sixth-straight league title. The Northmen could have garnered a share of the title with a win in that finale. Fantozzi took over the helm from Savanna Wojtanowski, a former West and professional soccer goalkeeper.

Onalee Gustafson (7) moves the ball upfield as the Titans play at Keystone County Park. Sophomore Gwen Allore picked up her third shutout of the season in the win over Cadillac. Fantozzi notes a strong rotating back line has significantly helped the clean sheet total. Sophomore Dillyn Mohr leads the defense and has kicked in three goals pushing up from the back. The other strong defenders are Jenna Rawlin, Sadie Wares, Ahna Campbell, Abbie Carmien and Beatrice Rooks.

Avery Plummer, a freshman, leads the team in scoring so far with seven goals and two assists. Senior Onalee Gustafson has three goals and two assists. Sophomore Raegan LaCross has three goals.

Fantozzi also credits the “super technical skills” of his midfielders Lila Warren and Mia Dungan, both juniors, and seniors Alessia Plombo and Gustafson, for the Titans’ early-season success.

In addition to the Gaylord tie, West was also tied by Elk Rapids, a strong Division 3 contender. The Elks are 11-0-1 going into their match tonight at Cadillac. 

The Titans’ lone loss this year was at the hands of Division 1 No. 6 Troy Athens, 5-0.

Fantozzi already is looking to put the early games behind the team and focus on a deep postseason run he became accustomed to in his last coaching stint at Boyne City.

He led Boyne City to a 2021 Division 3 Final appearance. The Ramblers won three Lake Michigan Conference titles, two Districts, two Regionals and appeared in the Semifinals twice during his five years at Boyne. Fantozzi also won two Lake Michigan Conference titles over five seasons at Harbor Springs.

Fantozzi returned to the sidelines last spring as a volunteer assistant at TC Central. It rekindled the passion he’s had since his playing days at Eastern Michigan University.

“I realized there was more to give,” Fantozzi said of his return. “We have a talented group of girls. 

“The potential to go far in both the postseason and regular season is there,” Fantozzi added. “They definitely have the ability – it is there.”

Getting the team to gel in his first year is key, Fantozzi said. 

Fantozzi huddles with his team at Trojan Athletic Complex, home of neighbor Traverse City Central. “With these girls, the power to believe – which is amazing what it can do – is just getting started,” he said. “You are only going to see them get better.

“You can lose every conference game and still win a state championship … a District championship,” he continued. “My main goal is to play some attractive exciting soccer.”

West’s girls will return to their school field next spring. The boys may get back on a new pitch this fall. The current field is getting a makeover, and a turf practice and playing field is being installed inside the school’s track. Revamped softball and baseball fields with new dugouts and lights also are underway at West.

Central, too, is getting a turf surface within its track, located on the school’s property. The Trojan Athletic Complex is located offsite on what is commonly known as the U.S. Coast Guard base.

The Titans have plenty of questions to answer with their play.

“Do we want to go all the way to the states? Absolutely,” Fantozzi said. “Do we want to finish at the top of the BNC? Yes we do. 

“But I am not going to cry if we don’t.”

West and Central will compete in Division 1 postseason play. Alpena, Gaylord, Cadillac and Petoskey will play in Division 2.

Tom SpencerTom 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) Traverse City West coach Ed Fantozzi talks things over with Raegan LaCross during a game this season. (Middle) Onalee Gustafson (7) moves the ball upfield as the Titans play at Keystone County Park. (Below) Fantozzi huddles with his team at Trojan Athletic Complex, home of neighbor Traverse City Central. (Photos by Tina Rawlin.)

Performance of the Week: Northville's Helena McLellan

June 2, 2023

Helena McLellanHelena McLellan ♦ Northville
Junior ♦ Soccer

McLellan, a standout midfielder, scored twice in Northville's 3-0 win over Belleville on May 22 to clinch the overall Kensington Lakes Activities Association championship. The Mustangs earned the opportunity to play in that game by claiming the KLAA West title with an 11-0-3 record, and they're 15-0-4 heading into Saturday's Division 1 District Final against Livonia Stevenson. 

An accomplished club soccer player, McLellan chose to compete for her high school team this spring for the first time and helped Northville to a No. 2 ranking at the end of the regular season after the Mustangs finished Division 1 runner-up a year ago. Belleville was ranked No. 8 in the final coaches association poll, and McLellan followed up her goals against the Tigers with another in Northville's 3-1 District Semifinal win over Farmington Hills Mercy on Wednesday. 

@mhsaasports ⚽️POW: Helena McLellan #performanceoftheweek #soccer #goals #scored #northville #mustangs #conferencechampions #MHSAA #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #TikTok#mistudentaid #fyp ♬ Beat Automotivo Tan Tan Tan Viral - WZ Beat

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2022-23 Honorees

May 25: Mitchel Luck, Linden lacrosse - Report
May 18:
Ahava Le Febre, Holland tennis - Report
May 11:
Gracie Maloney, Macomb Dakota softball - Report
May 4:
Braxton Brann, Ann Arbor Huron track & field - Report
April 27:
Owen Patton, Vestaburg track & field - Report
April 20:
Lilly Damm, Millington softball - Report
April 13:
Larissa Huffman, Mackinaw City track & field - Report
April 6:
Darius Acuff, Detroit Cass Tech basketball - Report
March 23:
Regan Finkbeiner, Hemlock basketball - Report
March 16:
Alaina Yaney, Grand Ledge gymnastics - Report
March 9:
Braeden Davis, Dundee wrestling - Report
March 2:
Gabriel Sanchez-Burks, Ann Arbor Pioneer swimming - Report
Feb. 23:
Grace Sobczak, Marquette swimming - Report
Feb. 16:
Kaitlynn Demers, Gibraltar Carlson competitive cheer - Report
Feb. 9:
Indya Davis, West Bloomfield basketball - Report
Feb. 2:
Braydon Sorenson, Onekama skiing - Report
Jan. 26:
Shayna Hruska, Iron Mountain wrestling - Report
Jan. 19:
Kayla Tafanelli, Warren Woods-Tower bowling - Report
Dec. 20:
Brenden Paden, Riverview Gabriel Richard hockey - Report
Dec. 16:
Tuff Scott, Holton bowling - Report
Dec. 9:
Macey Fegan, Standish-Sterling basketball - Report
Dec. 2:
Treyton Siegert, Gladwin football - Report
Nov. 24:
Lily Witte, Dexter diving - Report
Nov. 17:
Navea Gauthier, Shelby volleyball - Report
Nov. 10:
Derek Huisman, Holland Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Thomas Westphal, New Baltimore Anchor Bay cross country - Report
Oct. 27:
Justin Wickey, Colon football - Report
Oct. 20:
Owen DeMuth, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood tennis - Report
Oct. 13:
Mia Melendez, Ann Arbor Greenhills golf - Report
Oct. 6:
Shawn Foster, Grand Ledge football - Report
Sept. 30:
Hannah Smith, Temperance Bedford swimming - Report
Sept. 22:
Helen Sachs, Holland West Ottawa cross country - Report
Sept. 15:
Nina Horning, Lake Orion volleyball - Report
Sept 8:
Arturo Romero, Muskegon Oakridge soccer - Report
Sept. 1:
Austin King, Midland Dow tennis - Report
Aug. 25:
Olivia Hemmila, Troy Athens golf - Report

PHOTO Northville's Helena McLellan steps into a kick during a May 9 draw with Hartland. (Photo by Chris Mudd/National Photo Scout.)