Unity Shuts Down Powers, Adds to Streak

June 18, 2016

By Chip Mundy

Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Hudsonville Unity Christian junior goalkeeper Emily Ponstein had both arms around the championship trophy and clutched it to her chest.

“I think I’m going to take it home with me,” she said.

Ponstein wasn’t going to let go of the trophy, much like she didn’t let go of any ball that was sent in her direction Saturday afternoon at DeMartin Stadium on the campus of Michigan State University.

Ponstein made seven saves as the second-ranked Crusaders defeated No. 1 Flint Powers Catholic 2-0 in the MHSAA Division 3 girls championship game.

It was the third Finals championship in a row for Unity Christian (22-2-1), which has won 10 of the past 12 Division 3 titles. Flint Powers has been the runner-up in four of those championship games and defeated Unity Christian for the title in 2011.

Unity Christian coach Randy Heethuis, in his 27th season leading the Crusaders, heaped a ton of praise on his junior keeper.

“She made at least three or four fantastic saves. She basically stood on her head and kept Powers off the board,” he said. “That was by far her finest game she has had for us, and what a great stage to do it on. It was neat.”

Ponstein was at her best about 10 minutes into the second half when she stopped two shots directly in front of the net. She added a diving save to her left later in the half.

“I saw her coming in, and I was like, ‘No, not today, sorry,’” Ponstein said of the first shot. “The second one was tougher because it was in the air and it was a quick reaction save. The one I had to dive for came in a lot quicker than I expected. It was a great shot, and they are a great team.”

Flint Powers (21-2-1) outshot Unity Christian 16-3 and had the edge on corner kicks 5-1. But Ponstein clearly was the difference.

“I give a lot of credit to that goalie,” Flint Powers coach Art Moody said. “She made some amazing saves. If one of those shots goes in, it’s a different game.”

Ponstein said seeing so many shots actually might have worked in her favor.

“The constant pressure makes you really tired at the end of the game, but I think it keeps me on my toes,” she said. “Since I don’t get a break, I don’t have a chance to lose focus.”

Junior midfielder Alaina VanZalen gave Unity Christian a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute of the first half. She found the net from the left side of the top of the box and beat the Flint Powers goalkeeper on the short side. It was the first shot on goal of the game for the Crusaders.

“I shot it, and I really didn’t think it was going in,” she said. “I was shooting at the short side, and (the keeper) was there but it kind of snuck under her. It was a great surprise.”

It also was something that was part of the game plan.

“I saw a goal that somehow slipped under their keeper,” Heethuis said. “We talked about it at practice and said we want to test this keeper on the low side. I was screened out, so I couldn’t see it, but I saw Alaina shoot, and I just saw it stayed on the ground and went in. How it went in, I’m not exactly sure.”

The game stayed 1-0 until late in the second half. Sophomore Alexis Ponstein, younger sister of the goalie Emily, dribbled more than 50 yards on a breakaway and scored unassisted in the 78th minute to basically put the game away.

Ponstein, the goalie, was emotional talking about her little sister scoring a goal.

“I’m so proud of her,” she said through tears. “She has worked so hard.”

Most of the Unity Christian team actually did not want Alexis Ponstein to take the ball to the net.

“When she got the ball, there was part of us on the sideline saying, ‘Take it to the corner,’ ” Heethuis said. “That’s not in her DNA. She took it and realized she had one player to beat, and she got around her. Give that defender credit. She got a foot on the first shot, but then Lex just cleaned it up and nicely passed the ball into the side netting.

“We’ve been getting on her about hitting the ball too hard sometimes, and she didn’t that time. She took something off it and neatly tucked it into the corner. She must have been listening.”

She might have listened about the hard shots, but she didn’t listen about going to the corner late in the game.

“I was going down the center, and Coach is screaming at me, ‘Go to the corner, waste time, go to the corner, so I picked my head up and the last girl just stabbed, and I went around her and realized it was just me and the goal, so I just went for it,” she said

It was the final game for two-time all-stater Maddy VanDyke, who last year scored the game-winner in double overtime to give Unity Christian the Division 3 title. She was just as happy this year to win even though she did not score.

“We still won it. I don’t care who scores; we win, and it means a lot,” said VanDyke, who will play on the same field next season for Michigan State University. “I have a lot of memories here for high school, and I hope to make a lot more for college.”

VanDyke went out a three-time champion.

“Maddy VanDyke showed what kind of player she is,” Heethuis said. “She got a little dinged up, but I couldn’t be prouder of her.”

Defense has been the key all season for Unity Christian, which had shutouts in 10 of 18 regular-season games. The Crusaders became even stingier in the tournament, posting shutouts in six of seven games, including the title game. They allowed more than one goal just twice and gave up 11 goals total over 25 games.

Ponstein gave up only seven goals playing the majority of the minutes this spring and finished with 15 shutouts.

“We’re disappointed that we didn’t generate more corner kicks, but we just defended and defended,” Heethuis said. “A lot of people could look at this game and say we got outplayed, but the fact of the matter is that we won. We’ll take it. We’re going to enjoy it.

“There are no style points in soccer.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Unity Christian's Maddy VanDyke (14) pushes the ball past a pursuing Flint Powers player Saturday. (Middle) The Crusaders celebrate their ninth championship.

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.)