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.)

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.)