Girls Soccer Top 50 Teams: Grandville tops the list

Soccer   | Dan Stickradt

Girls Soccer Top 50 Teams: Grandville tops the list


Grandville - When Grandville made a run to the 2013 Division 1 finals coach Lewis Robinson knew he had something special in the works.

That squad lost to then-powerhouse Troy, 2-1, but featured a team of mostly sophomores and freshmen.

“We had a really young team then, but we played really well. I knew we would be really good the next few years,” Robinson said. “We have been one of the best teams in the state the past three years.”

“Best teams” has definitely been the case. 

Grandville has won four consecutive district titles and reached the regional semifinals last season before losing to East Kentwood in a shootout. The Bulldogs (21-2) 0 outscored the opposition by a commanding 71-4 margin.

They also won the OK Red Division title with a 9-1 record.

In 2014 Grandville reached the regional finals before falling to Okemos (3-1). 

Grandville opened the 2016 campaign with a 4-0-0 record and is State Champs’ No. 1 team in the preseason Fab 50. The Bulldogs defeated Portage Northern (3-0), Vicksburg (3-0), Lowell (4-0) and Caledonia (1-0) to open the season.

“We’re off to a great start,” Robinson said. “But we have some very tough teams coming up. There’s a lot of great teams in Division 1, all over the state. It seems like anyone can beat anyone. Just in our (Grand Rapids) area there are four, five really good teams.”

There are eight returning starters and 14 total players back in uniform for Grandville, plus some nice additions that will keep the Bulldogs in contention this season. 


“We only lost a couple of players from last year and we were ranked No. 1 in our region and state most of last season,” said Robinson. “Our senior class is a group of four-year starters that have led the team to a state finals (as freshmen) and many championships over four years and we added some new good players to the roster, too.”


Senior midfielder Sydney Blitchok (Iowa) was named to the All-State Dream Team last season and is considered to be on the short list of Miss Soccer candidates. She had seven goals and 15 assists last year and is a nominee for Michigan Gatorade Player of the Year. 


Senior midfielder Savanna Bosworth (Western Michigan) and senior defender Lydia Bajema (Western Michigan) have both been mainstays in the lineup.


Senior marking backs Ally Nyboer (Lawrence Tech) and Bri Heyboer have also been on varsity for four years. Senior defender Sammy Figurski, senior midfielder Val Wierenga and junior forward Merin Mcdermott also return to the starting lineup.


As for the newcomers, freshman forward Lex Dekam scored three goals in the team’s first four games and senior midfielder Cierra Buist, a transfer from Grand Rapids South Christian, have made impacts. Sophomore defender Erin Walski and sophomore goalkeeper Erika Gabriel will move into the starting lineup.

“I think if we are going to win it, it will have to be this year. We have been building towards this year for a few years now,” said Robinson. “We hope it is our season in the end.”


2. BRIGHTON (14-3-5): The Bulldogs have a bevy of young talent and even though they lost seven players to the ECNL’s Michigan Hawks, this is a team that is dangerous all over the field. Senior G Madison Gould has received college interest. Senior F/M Delaney Bussey (South Carolina-Upstate), junior F Emma Shinsky (all-state honorable mention) and senior D Kasey Codd (Grand Valley State) are returning starters. There are 10 sophomores on the roster led by McCauley Berry (M), Megan McCord (F) and Elle Saladian (D). Brighton won the KLAA-West Division last season, reached a district final and started the 2016 campaign 5-0-0. 


3. GRAND BLANC (18-6-3): After finishing third in the KLAA-West, Grand Blanc put it all together last year and made a run to the Division 1 state final where it lost to unbeaten Saline. Although Annie Walker departed to Rice, Grand Blanc is 3-0-1 to start the season. Lexi Trudeau (Louisiana-Monroe) has been all-state all three years in the midfield and junior D Lexi Childers anchors the back. Senior Amy Puizokas returns in goal. Sophomore F Laura Wheeler (17 goals), sophomore D Morgan Jewell, sophomore F Morgan Metzger, sophomore M Ashton Cassel and junior D Chelsie Clark all return. Sophomore D Samantha Lewis and freshman F Paige Webber are two new additions that have made an immediate impact.


4. UTICA EISENHOWER (18-2-3): A mainstay program in the D-1 top 10 which reached the state finals two years ago, the Eagles stalled out in the regional finals last season despite a loaded roster. There is still plenty of firepower on this unit, which is capable of another postseason run. Junior M Gabriala Jodzis is one of the top 150 juniors in the country and has committed to Michigan State. Senior F Shannon Casey (Villanova) is a load up top, along with junior newcomer Jillian Winarski (Purdue), who played last season with the Michigan Hawks ECNL club team. Senior M Bianca Sarti (Cleveland State), senior D Morgan Mooty, junior D Jenna Pettke, junior M Sofia Dimercurio and senior G Bianca Koupparis are all key players.


5. UTICA FORD II (15-4-2): The runner-up finisher in the MAC Red Division last season is also among the state’s best this year. The Falcons advanced to the semifinals in 2014 and regional semifinals in 2015 before falling to Eisenhower. There are eight returning starters for Ford, led by junior M/F Cecilia Steinwascher (all-state first team), senior D Molly Vanderhoff (Saginaw Valley State) and sophomore M Darline Radamaker (Grand Valley State, member of U-23 Haitian National Team). Junior D Lauren Cimino (Eastern Michigan), sophomore F Julie Ann Piechocki, senior M Allyson Beckwell, junior M/D Chloe Chatzis (Eastern Michigan) and junior D Olivia Parra (Detroit Mercy) give this team a bevy of future college talent. Senior D Morgan Dease, junior M Salena Spreagle and freshman D Alana Wood have all filled in nicely. 


6. BIRMINGHAM MARIAN (17-2-2): A perennial power in Division 2, expect the Mustangs to be a threat to make a deep run this season with an experienced squad. Marian was upset in the district final last season by Pontiac Notre Dame Prep and there is plenty of hunger with this year’s group. Junior M Elaina Eckert (D-I recruit), sophomore midfielders Annie Bruce (Cincinatti) and Claudia Schilling, junior F Ellie DeCroninck, senior M Amy Stroud, junior D Maria Kaschalk (Troy University) and senior G Kaitlin Patouhas (South Carolina-Upstate) are all quality players. A fine freshman class will also help, headlined by F Jansen Eichenlaub.


7. GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS CENTRAL (13-5-1): If Forest Hills Central does not make a run this season, the Rangers likely will in the near future with a roster beaming with young talent. Junior M Bailey Korhorn (all state first team, Cincinnati) is one of the state’s best overall talents and senior M/D Mackenzie Currie is looking to walk on at the D-I level. Sophomore D Natalie Lunt, sophomore F Madeline Becker (Grand Valley State), sophomore G Emma Yoder (Slippery Rock), freshman D Avery Tack and freshman F Stephanie Currie, already the leading goal scorer this season, are all key cogs in this machine. 


8. DEWITT (16-5-2): The Panthers have reached the D-2 semifinals four times in six years and did so last season with no seniors in the starting lineup. A total of 22 players return this season. Juniors Danielle Stephen (All-State First Team) and Mackenzie Dawes and seniors Erika Curley and Calle Fisher lead a seasoned midfield. Seniors Allison Sims, juniors Maddie Dickens and Morgan Hoover and sophomore Taylor Bishop headline a potent offense up top. Senior Brianna Bishop and juniors Morgan Hoover and Jessah McNanus (All-State Honorable Mention) are part of a tight-knit unit in the backfield. Junior Brooklyn Holley returns in goal. Veteran coach Jamal Mubarekeh entered the season with 604 career wins.


9. EAST KENTWOOD (20-2-2): East Kentwood, a state semifinalist a year ago, must retool slightly in order to make another run in the postseason. Sophomore F Riley Tanner (All-State First Team) is one of the state’s best, junior Maia Perez (Hartford) has over 50 career wins as the starting goalkeeper and senior M Lydia Franks (Michigan State) are all standouts. Senior M Haley Smith, senior defenders Daria Romero, America Lemus and Kendall Quin, junior M Emily VanGorden, junior D Maddie Mohr and junior F Janelle Quinn are all pieces to the puzzle. 

10. NOVI (9-4-4): Five-time state champion Novi is set to bounce back after a year of inconsistency. Co-champs of the KLAA Central Division, the Wildcats have some high level players set to lead the charge. Senior F Chloe Allen (All-State Third Team, Akron), senior M Megan Riley (All-State Honorable Mention, Central Michigan) and senior D Katrina Koomen (College of Charleston) are three big-time players. Koonen played for her ECNL Michigan Hawks team last spring after starting for two years for Novi. Junior Jacalyn Schubring, junior M/D Gracie Backus, sophomore D Riely Schultz and senior G Aestha Dharia are also returning starters. Freshmen Jessie Bandyk (M), Lauren Calhoun (D) and Lexi Whalen (F), plus sophomore M Emmie Takada, will all help make Novi much more formidable this year.

11. TROY ATHENS (16-5-4): With a young team, the Red Hawks put together a late run to reach the state semifinals. Athens graduated three players and lost a fourth who moved to India. Athens has already defeated Saline (2-0). Senior G Amanda Harris has been All-State three times, while junior Ashley Leonard (All-State First Team) is an offensive terror on opposing defenses. Seniors Hannah Schell, Elena Manzo and Elyse Merbach, along with junior Kelsey Malven, form a dynamite backfield and senior Silvanna Mancini is a heady center midfielder.


12. HARTLAND (18-3-3): Hartland is a program that has emerged quickly in the past five years. The Eagles collected a school record for wins last season and will still be a team capable of contending for a league and district title despite the loss of All-State Dream Team selection Maggie Pogarch. Senior Sakura Bals and junior Kennedy Kuhlman form a dynamite tandem at forward and junior midfielders Sydney Hughes and Grace Thomas are also key parts in the offense. Senior Christine Bowen is a solid goalkeeper and senior Alex Rigonen is reliable on defense.


13. SALINE (22-0-3): The Hornets put together one of the all-time best team defensive efforts last season in their run to the state title. They gave up just four goals in 25 matches. Gone are six All-State players, so the Hornets likely won’t be near last year’s nest in the early going of the season but don’t count Saline out of the picture come the end of the season. Senior Allison Luurtsema and sophomore Morgan Jones return from that stellar defensive unit, while junior Sydney Jarvela and Bella Petrock return to the midfield. Senior G Lauren Wilkie, senior D Maggie Schumborg, junior D Emma Wright, junior M Maeve Skelly and sophomore M Tate Robinson move into starting roles, while freshman F Devyn Reilly is one of eight newcomers hoping to lead the Hornets to a fifth straight district title. 


14. NORTHVILLE (16-4-5): Two years removed from an unbeaten season, Northville still carries plenty of talent and again will be a quality team in the KLAA and beyond. The Mustangs reached the regional finals last season. Senior Emily Boss and sophomore Nikki Skinner anchor the backfield, senior Alissa Moore and junior Sydney Schem are quality attackers, while seniors Sarah Park and Maddy Westernberg and sophomores Kendall Dillon and Megan Krygier are key midfielders. Sophomore G Carlie Castiglione, along with freshmen defenders Nina Chimienti and Jenna Lauderback, lead the talented cast of newcomers.


15. FLINT POWERS (24-4-0): Behind a team with great balance offensively and defensively, the Chargers made a run to the Division 3 semifinals last season and if there is a team to unseat reigning champ Hudsonville Unity Christian this season it’s Powers. The SVA South Division champs have three highly-touted players in junior F/D junior Rachel Phillpotts (All-State First Team), junior D Sydney Whilhoite (All-State Honorable Mention) and F Rachel Rasins, who has already committed to Columbia and is one of the state’s top freshman. Seniors Sarah Parker, Jenna Moonan and Alex Isaac, along with junior Emilie Pechette form a stingy defense. Senior Madison Evans. junior Abbie Clothier (All-State Honorable Mention), senior Erin Emmert and sophomore Maddy Cardinal all started last season in the midfield, while sophomore Sophie Bubanr and junior Sophia Dubiel provide additional pop up top. 


16. HUDSONVILLE UNITY CHRISTIAN (24-1-0): The Crusaders have won three Division 3 state titles in the past four years (nine overall plus one state runner-up over the previous 12 seasons). Unity Christian has become one of the most successful programs in state history. Although a talented cast of four-year players graduated, Unity Christian still boasts senior D/M Maddie VanDyke, an All-State Dream Team selection who has signed with Michigan State. Senior F Aubrey DeRoo, senior M Shaelyn Postmus, sophomore D Grace DeYoung and junior G Emily Ponstein are all back in the starting lineup and ready to carry on the tradition. Junior F Katrina Goebel, senior F Abby Nienhuis, junior D McKenna VanKoevering and junior Emily Orr are all new starters that have filled in nicely.

17. ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK (17-2-1): Last season’s preseason No. 1 pick won the OAA Red Division and a district title before being upset by Grand Blanc in a regional semifinal, 3-2, despite a 19-4 edge in shots. Gone are seven players to the college ranks and extreme expectations, but don’t feel sorry for the Cougars as the pipeline is still fruitful. Senior F Taylor Paradoski (Elon) is a two-time All-State selection, while junior M Emily Solek and sophomore M Isabella Langusch are both Division I recruits. Junior F Truly Hoenig (Oakland), junior G Gina Cerny, junior M Lindsay Schupbach and the freshman trio of defenders Amelia Kuntzman, Megan Solek and Lauren Orlando will all fill in graduation voids.


18. WALLED LAKE NORTHERN (17-2-1): The Knights logged most of last season in the top 10 and, despite graduating four players to the college ranks, Northern will not drop from the top teams in Division 1 this season. Seven starters are back, led by senior F Devyn Brough (Auburn), senior D Adrienne Woodruff (Concordia), junior F Kamryn Szalay (Florida Southern), junior D Michayla Szalay (Florida Southern), junior midfielders Lauren Mangin and Nicole LaFrance and junior D Nani Walker. The new arrivals is what makes the Knights even more dangerous. Freshman F Dani Wolfe is in the ODP National Pool for her age group, junior M Sophie Fisher (Michigan State) has played the last two seasons with the Michigan Hawks and junior M Sarah Kadajsz has stepped into the mix as well.


19. RICHLAND GULL LAKE (25-1-1): The Blue Devils are building a dynasty with three straight Division 2 state titles and a stellar 84-8-4 ledger over the past three seasons. Maddie Fouts (M), Kenzi Harney (M), Riley Wisser (F) and Regan Troff (G) have been contributors on all three title teams. Lucy Sandell, Braeden Snow