Team of the Month: Saugatuck Girls Soccer

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

May 12, 2023

As mid-May approached two years ago, girls soccer was nowhere to be found in the Saugatuck trophy case, and the team’s championship banner hung blank in the school’s gym next to well-populated celebrations for cross country, track & field and other programs with histories of success.

Just less than 24 months later, things have changed – and are still accelerating as the Trailblazers are putting up numbers from the pitch now as well.

The Saugatuck girls soccer program capped its 2021 season by winning its first District title, then repeated last season. And just over a week ago, the Trailblazers clinched their first league championship in the sport, claiming the Southwestern Athletic Conference Lakeshore title with a 3-0 win over Holland Black River.

Saugatuck’s girls soccer team – the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for April – is undefeated since suffering its lone loss of the season March 27. The Trailblazers are 14-1, up to No. 9 in the Division 4 coaches poll, and show no signs of slowing down with 10 shutouts including five over their last six games.

“There’s a lot of enthusiasm, especially because soccer hasn’t been big in our school … so to actually get some notice for what we’re doing in soccer, I think our girls are just really super excited about all the attention they’ve received,” said Trailblazers coach Jordan Campbell, who took over the girls soccer program in 2014. “But I think they are also a pretty confident group. I think they expected to be able to compete really well, and last year we lost six games and I think our seniors this year took that all a little personally because they felt that we were better than some of those teams.

“It’s kind of like we want to make sure that (Saugatuck girls) soccer is not just a team that’s just around and can be competitive, but it’s a team that you’ve got to be prepared for.”

After the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19, Saugatuck won 12 games both of the last two. The Trailblazers finished 12-6-3 last year, and already this spring has avenged three of those losses and turned the three draws into three victories.

A group of seven seniors has set things in motion again after helping make the charge over the last two seasons. Senior Adele Nieuwsma moved to Saugatuck from out of state before the 2021 season and made the Division 4 all-state third team a year ago. Haley Rivera, Erin Moerler and Eva Kierzek join her as captains and came up through the Saugatuck recreation and community programs. Iris Kuipers, Ellen Martinsson and Mia Zerfas further bolster the senior class – Kuipers, along with sophomore keeper Kennedy Gustafson, earned all-state honorable mention in 2022.

The team is surging, and the program is growing. The Trailblazers are up about 10 players over totals from the last two seasons, to 35 this spring, which has allowed for varsity and junior varsity teams.

It was a memorable moment for sure when the “2021” was added to the girls soccer banner in the gym, signifying that first District title. These seniors may need to return to celebrate the “2023” for the league title – and perhaps more – that could be part of this memorable run before it finishes next month.

“We’ve had really solid core seniors, and they’ve really stepped up and I almost feel like we’re on autopilot with this group because they do everything on their own and they push each other, and they work to get each other involved and they care about the younger kids and try to get them involved,” Campbell said. “I think it’s a huge thing we’ve seen with this group coming up and getting some experience and building, and seeing where we were when they started as freshman to the last couple of years.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2022-23

March: Croswell-Lexington competitive cheer - Report
Hart girls & boys basketball - Report
Taylor Trillium Academy girls bowling - Report
Byron Center hockey - Report
Martin football - Report
Gladwin volleyball - Report
Negaunee girls tennis - Report

PHOTO courtesy of the Saugatuck athletic department. 

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.)