The Newaygo County Pickleball Club Tournament
Article by John Reeves, Pictures by Kristi Krimm
Fremont, June 17, 2023 - There are about 100 members of the NCPC. On this bright and beautiful morning, score keepers, record keepers and other organizers set the stage for 24 participants to compete and test their skills against each other. The age range of the participants was about 30-80. The spaces around the courts were filled with family and friends cheering on their favorite players.
There were two randomly selected brackets, and each Participant plays one game with each of the other 11 persons in their bracket. So its prestige and bragging rights on the line with the three top women and men in each bracket receiving a medal. Play ball!
The scoring was tournament scoring (every serve ends in a point) and first to 20 wins the game. The competition was excellent with no one conceding anything. Dinks, slams, lobs, and down the line lasers was the order of the day. Each round to 20 was over almost in the blink of an eye. When it all settled, wins and points were tallied and the top three men and women in each bracket were announced.
Afterwards there was a club meeting, fellowship and comradeship was ever so present. The NCPC invites all that are interested in showing up and trying their hand at this the fastest growing sport in America to “come on down”. There is open play starting at 9:00 AM Monday and Friday at Henning Park in Newaygo and Tuesday through Thursday at 9:00 AM at the Fremont Recreation center (good weather outside play and not so good weather inside at the Rec Center). For more information, please contact the Fremont Recreation Center at 231-924-3750.
Photos by Karen Mortensen & Tabatha Lathrup
The Newaygo Athletic Boosters are pleased to announce the awarding of three $750.00 Scholarships for 2023. The awards go to Grant Harkness, Lyda Lathrop, and Emma Mortensen. These three athletes and scholars are National Honors Society members and have accumulated a wide range of accolades for their accomplishments. They are academic All State honorees and have supported and volunteered for a variety of summer youth camps as counselors covering a wide range of athletics including, Basketball, Volleyball, Baseball and Football. They exemplify what a scholar-athlete is and does. They have set high standards and goals for themselves and through hard work, studies, and action they demonstrate excellence in scholarly and athletic pursuits.
In their applications, all three reflected on how important their athletic pursuits have been to them in meeting new people and establishing lifelong friendships. They talked about how their participation forged their attitudes as the journey became the goal. Their accomplishments on and off the fields and their many awards is a testament to what is possible and how to carry “Lion Pride”
Grant will be attending Western Michigan University pursuing a degree in Personal Financial Planning. Lyda will be attending Aquinas College studying Psychology. Emma will be attending Michigan State University pursuing studies in the Sciences and Psychology.
Congratulations and well done!
Newaygo Athletic Boosters Club
Front Row L-R: Devin Garbow (Morley Stanwood), Russell Toth (Newaygo), Mason Ruether (White Cloud), Brody Sleeper (Big Rapids), Cameron Bracy (Central Montcalm), Oakley Obenauf (Grant), Troy Atwood (Kent City), Mayson McNeilly (Big Rapids) Middle Row L-R: Remy Wells (Newaygo), Riley Vennix (Big Rapids), Kyler Larson (Kent City), Kade Olson (Central Montcalm), Josiah Long (Newaygo), Will Strickler (Big Rapids), Tyler Geer (Chippewa HIlls), Gabe Lewis (Central Montcalm), Grant Harkness (Newaygo) Back Row L-R: Ben Knuth (Big Rapids), Bodie Bigler (Lakeview), Hayden Train (Central Montcalm), Xavier Allen (Reed City), Maxwell Hammond (Reed City), Alex Cruzan (White Cloud), Isaac Zocco (Big Rapids), Landyn McGowen (White Cloud)
Photos by Brittlyn Rose Photography
Josiah Long -Jr.
Oakley Obenauf - Jr.
Chase Geers - Sr.
Mason Reuther -Sr.
Alex Cruzan -Sr.
Landyn McGowen - Jr.
Christian Ringler -Jr.
Gracie Stamp -So.
Chloe Clark -Fr.
Addison Goodin -Jr.
Lyda Lathrop -Sr.
Emma Bliss -Sr.
Jayci Hance - Sr.
Taylee Self 12th
Reese Gragg -So.
Kayla Burgess - Fr.
Front Row L-R: Lauren Alexander (Central Montcalm), Emma Bliss (Grant), Gracie Stamp (Newaygo), Savannah Miller (Kent City), Jayci Hance (Grant), Jacee Hoffman (Kent City), Josie Cornell (Big Rapids), Hannah Stellini (Kent City), Kaitlyn Hardy (Central Montcalm) Middle Row L-R: Isabell Guy (Reed City), Paityn Enos (Reed City), Pharis Carroll (Big Rapids), Taylee Self (Grant), Ella Newman (Chippewa HIlls), Rylie Haist (Big Rapids), Natalie Parsons (Lakeview), Chloe Clark (Newaygo), Zoey Bacon (Central Montcalm), Alyssa Johnson (Central Montcalm) Back Row L-R: Morgan Hammond (Reed City), Cailin Knoop (Big Rapids), Lexie Bowers (Kent City), Marissa Warren (Big Rapids), Addison Goodin (Newaygo) Not Pictured: Hanna Smith (Big Rapids), Audrey Huffman (Chippewa Hills)
Lions dominate All Conference Team
Photos by Tara Hefferan and Alexis Mercer
N3 Sports- We asked Newaygo Lion Soccer Coach Matt Painter to give us a few words about his 7 All Conference players as well as the 8th Lion who was given Honorable Mention.
Newaygo Girls Soccer finished another very successful season, thanks to the excellent play of our All Conference players. These girls led the way to an 18-1-1 record, a Conference Title, winning the Conference Tournament, and securing the school’s second ever District Championship winning two in a row!
Grace Painter, Senior Captain. Grace played primarily forward but also played center midfield at times also. Grace had 42 goals and 25 assists on the season, netting 8 hat tricks this year! Grace is committed to play for Trinity Christian College in the fall and has been a invaluable part of Newaygo soccer’s success the past 3 years.
Sofia Briggs, Senior Captain. Sofia has been our starting center back her entire career. She is arguably one of the best defenders in the area. She was the primary reason we only allowed 13 goals on the season and recorded 14 shutouts. Sofia is a quiet but fierce player!
Connelly Hefferan- Nordlund, Senior Captain. Connelly played as a center midfielder the majority of the season and also served as our back up goalkeeper. Connelly had 18 goals and 29 assists on the season. Connelly has good vision on the field and most of our plays go through her.
Lynnea Briones, Senior. Lynnea played as a central midfielder for most of the season but she also filled in as a defender as needed also. Lynnea had 6 goals and 12 assists and is a scrappy player who never gives up. Although Lynnea’s stats aren’t super impressive, her ability to disrupt plays and win balls allowed us to start our own offensive attacks over and over again.
Barbara Toth, Senior. Barbara has been our starting goalkeeper her entire career. She has developed into a excellent keeper with quick reflexes and good instincts. She ended the year with 65 saves and 14 clean sheets.
McCaiden Reinstra, Senior. After taking last year off, McCaiden returned this year and was an important part of our success. Her speed as a forward allowed her to get into open space to meet the passes from Connelly and Grace, finding the back of the net 22 times this season. McCaiden also had 7 assists. She injured an ankle in our district semifinal and we certainly missed her for the final!
Maddie Couch, Sophomore. Maddie is a fearless defender who has been learning from one of the best! She reads angles well and is willing to take on any forwards she comes up against. Maddie was also a big part of our ability to keep teams off the scoreboard this year.
Natalie Richardson, Junior. Natalie earned honorable mention honors this year for her excellent defensive efforts. Along with Sofia and Maddie, Natalie locked down the back line making it very difficult for teams to get good looks at goal.
Cloud misplays lead to loss in Regional semi-final
Photos by Cassie Rickert
The Indians committed 6 errors, allowing Benzie to score 5 unearned runs in a 5-3 loss.
The first inning saw the Huskies plate the first 3 runs courtesy of errors.White Cloud responded in the 2nd inning when after a Reece Hewitt single, Landyn McGowen smashed a long home run over the left centerfield fence to pull the Indians within a run, 3-2. Benzie added a run in the 4th inning after an error and another run in the 7th inning after 2 infield errors.
White Cloud would try to battle back into the game in the 7th inning. After a leadoff attempted bunt for an out, Jayden Robinson walked, and was followed by a walk to KJ Strait putting runners at 1st and 2nd with one out. An infield pop fly put the Huskies one out from the win but , Alex Cruzan roped a line shot double into the left field corner to score a run. With runners on 2nd and 3rd, a hard grounder to the 3rd baseman was bobbled, resulting in a very close play at first base, but the call went the way of Benzie and they escaped with the win.
Landyn McGowen led the offense with a single and a 2 run homer, and Alex Cruzan had a single and a double with an RBI, and Reece Hewitt had 2 singles On the hill, Mason Ruether went 5 innings, striking out 9, walking 5 - due to a tight strike zone, allowing only 3 hits, and 4 unearned runs. Mason Cruzan came on in relief at the start of the 6th inning, allowing 1 unearned run, 1 walk, 1 hit and striking out 4.
White Cloud finishes the season at 23-12-1, with a 5th place finish as the smallest school in the 11 team CSAA, and with a District Championship.
Photos and Story by Tara Hefferan
Newaygo Lions Girls Soccer traveled to Clare on Tuesday to take on the Elk Rapids Elks in the Division 3 Regional Semifinals. Newaygo was handed its first loss of the season, falling 5-0 to a skilled Elk Rapids team.
Newaygo Girls Soccer has had a storied 2023 season, winning both the regular CSAA Conference and CSAA Tournament titles, as well as the District 47 Championship. Going into Tuesday’s match against Elk Rapids, however, the Lions knew they would be challenged. Elk Rapids won the regional title last year, eliminating Newaygo in the semifinals, and this year has sat near the top the Division 3 state rankings all season. That said, the Lions also had some hope, as they and Elk Rapids were the only remaining undefeated teams in Division 3. Newaygo’s overall record was 18-0-1, while Elk Rapids was 19-0-1. Each team scored more than 90 goals this season, while each conceded fewer than 10. As senior captain Sofia Briggs said, “Elk Rapids is very skilled team throughout. We all knew it was going to be a good game based on our stats and theirs.”
Anticipating the speed and technical abilities of the Elks, the Lions shifted their normal formation into a more defensive shape. The starting line-up had McCaiden Rienstra up top, as the lone striker. Connelly Hefferan Nordlund and Grace Painter were center midfielders, with Aby Lauryssens and Belen Torres on the wings. Lynnea Briones played as a defensive midfielder. Sofia Briggs and Maddie Couch worked as center backs, while Natalie Richardson and Landry Hefferan Nordlund played outside backs.
The Lions took the kick-off, and early on had some opportunities to advance toward the Elks’ territory. The Elks defense was formidable, however, and connected well with the midfield and frontline to dominate possession. The Lions quickly found themselves playing a purely defensive game. Lion Keeper Barbara Toth stopped shot after shot, but the Elks were able to get on the board with 24:02 minutes left in the first half. The goal came from a counter-attack, with the ball finding its way to Elk Lauren Bingham. Bingham used her speed to break through the Lions defense, putting herself in a 1 vs 1 against Lion Keeper Toth. Bingham found the gap on the right edge of the net, out of Toth’s reach. The Elks were ahead 1-0.
The Elks’ next two goals came at 19:33 and 18:27, and both were off deflections from Lions defenders. In the first, a cross into the box from Sofie Bellner bounced off the defender at the near post, sliding into the net. The second came after a throw-in, as Bellner hurled a low-driven ball across the back line, deflecting off the defense on the far side. These back-to-back goals put Elk Rapids ahead of the Lions 3-0. The Elks would score one more time before the half. With 6:41 on the clock, Sierra Boilore sped through the defensive line, firing a shot into the back of the net. In the first half, the Elks had 17 shots total, with 6 on goal and 4 goals. Lion Keeper Toth made several impressive stops in goal, while Briggs had a noteworthy slide tackle just in front of net. As a whole, the Lions defense and midfield worked together tirelessly to contain the Elks’ impressive attack.
Returning from half, the Lions generated more offensive pressure than they had in the first half. A few runs into Elk territory created some chances for the Lions, but they were unable to find the back of the net. The Elks, by contrast, found another goal, with 29:42 left in the second half. Boilore sent a rocket from the penalty line, slotting it into the right corner. As the second half came to a close, the Lions had taken 4 shots, with 3 on goal. The Elks put out 12 shots, with 5 on goal and 1 in goal. The final score was Elk Rapids 5 vs. Newaygo 0. As senior captain Grace Painter said, “I was really proud of our team’s hustle and effort last night. We left everything out on the field and played until the final whistle.”
The Lions 2023 soccer season has come to an end with the semifinal loss. This is especially bittersweet for the six starting seniors, who in their time with the team have helped to transform Newaygo Girls Soccer from a losing program into a history-making championship team. Sofia Briggs, Lynnea Briones, Connelly Hefferan Nordlund, Grace Painter, McCaiden Rienstra, and Barbara Toth will leave behind a legacy of leadership and teamwork.
Commenting on what the team has meant to her, Lynnea Briones said, “This team has definitely meant the world to me. I feel good knowing that we worked our butts off for the legacy we are leaving behind and all the history we have made.” Said Grace Painter, “What a way to end a high school career! We came together as a team, and it resulted in three trophies and an undefeated season during the regular season. I couldn’t ask for much more!” Barbara Toth said, “We had an amazing run, it’s sad to see it come to an end, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.” Connelly Hefferan Nordlund said, “Playing with some of these girls my entire life has been a blessing, and I’m very grateful for it. I think part of our success this season has been because of the friendship that we have with one another.” Sofia Briggs continued, “This team has been everything throughout the past years. We’ve achieved a lot together. From our first district win to our first conference title together, we’ve grown substantially as a team. I’ve had an amazing time with these people. I will never forget this team.”
With Lion pride, the fans and community will never forget this team either. 2023 Newaygo Girls Soccer is sure to serve as a model and inspiration for others going forward.
Team heads to Regionals for matchup with the Huskies of Benzie
The White Cloud Indians traveled to Hart on Saturday for District Baseball. The Indians took on the Hart Pirates in the 2nd semi-final game at noon.
After holding the Pirates scoreless in their half of the 1st inning, the Indians went to work with KJ Strait leading off for the Indians with a single. Alex Cruzan was then hit by a pitch, which moved Strait to 2nd base, where he promptly stole 3rd base and scored on a wild pitch for the first run of the game and a 1-0 lead for the Indians.
With White Cloud up to bat with 2 outs in the 2nd inning, the weather changed and thunder and lightning came in, so the game was delayed for around 2 1/2 hours before play resumed. The 2nd inning ended with the Indians stranding 2 runners on base.
The Pirates collected a lead off double to start the 3rd inning, and the next batter was hit by a pitch to put 2 runners on base, but an infield pop fly and a ground out ended the Pirates threat.
The Indians would plate 2 more runs in their half of the 3rd inning, after the first 2 batters reached base on errors, Landyn McGowen drove them in with a double down the left field line, for a 3-0 score.
Hart went down in order in the 4th inning.
White Cloud plated another run in the 4th inning, as Strait led off with a single, Mason Ruether followed that with another single, and Alex Cruzan drove Strait home with a ground out, for a 4-0 lead, at the end of 4 innings.
Hart went down on 3 straight strikeouts, in the 5th inning.
White Cloud started off the 5th inning with a single by Reece Hewitt, followed by a walk to McGowen, and another single by Jacob Francis to load the bases. Jayden Robinson drove a run in with a fielder's choice, Strait got on base via an error to drive in a run, and Mason Ruether drove another run with a sacrifice fly, for a 7-0 lead at the end of 5 innings.
Alex Cruzan came into the game to pitch in the 6th inning, and shut the Pirates down in order.
The Indians finished off the Pirates in the 6th inning as the first 2 batters reached base on errors, followed by a walk to Robinson, before all three runners were driven in on a double by Strait, for the 10-0 win.
Mason Ruether started on the hill for the Inidians, going 5 innings, allowing 1 hit, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts, and no runs allowed.
Leading the offense for the Indians were Strait with 4 hits, 2 runs scored and 4 RBI's, Landyn McGowen with a double and 2 RBI's, with Francis, Ruether, and Hewitt each contributing a hit a piece.
In the Finals, White Cloud took on the Shelby Tigers, who defeated Hesperia 3-2 in 10 innings in the morning game.
After losing the coin toss, White Cloud batted first as the visiting team, and threatened to score, as Mason Ruether was walked, followed by Alex Cruzan getting hit by a pitch, and then both runners stole the base in front of them, putting runners on 2nd and 3rd with 1 out. After a strikeout, Christain Ringler was walked to load the bases, then the Indians were retired via a strikeout.
Shelby came to bat in the first inning, after a leadoff double, and 2 balls thrown to the next batter, Coach Mahn replaced the starting pitcher with Landyn McGowen. The 2nd batter was then walked, which was followed by another walk to the 3rd batter to load the bases. The cleanup hitter, with bases loaded, grounded the ball to McGowen on the mound, who threw home for the force, and catcher Jayson Ruether fired to first base to complete the double play. Shelby still had runners on 2nd and 3rd with 2 outs, when a single by Smith drove in a run, and that was followed by a single by Dickman to drive in another run, but a perfect throw to home plate by freshmen right fielder Reece Hewitt nailed the runner at home, for the Tigers to take a 2-0 lead.
Due to the extra inning game played by the Tigers, their starting pitcher had to be removed due to pitch count limits after allowing walks to Landyn McGowen and Jayden Robinson, after both runners stole a base, with runners now on 2nd and 3rd, KJ Strait smashed a line drive single to left field to plate 2 runs to ty the score at 2-2, but the Indians were not finished. Strait promptly stole 2nd base, and scored on a double by Mason Ruether, as Ruether scored on a groundout by Mason Cruzan, for a 4-2 lead for White Cloud.
Shelby scored a single run in their half of the 2nd inning, Coach Mahn now replaced McGowen with Mason Cruzan on the hill with the Indians holding on to a slim 4-3 lead. Cruzan enticed a fielder's choice ground out before picking off the runner on 3rd base to end the inning.
White Cloud went down in order in the 3rd inning.
Shelby would not go down easily, as Lalo Garcia led off the 3rd inning with a double, which was followed by a walk, for runners to be on 1st and 2nd base. After two consecutive pop outs to shortstop, another walk loaded the bases, before Cruzan buckled down and struck out the next batter to end the inning.
The Indians would start off the 4th inning off with a single by Jayden Robinson, and a single by Strait for runners at 1st and 2nd, after a stolen base by both runners, Mason Ruether drove in Strait with a ground out. and Robinson was driven in by a double by Alex Cruzan, for a 6-3 Indians lead.
Shelby would be set down in order by Mason Cruzan in the 4th.
The Indians went down in order in the 5th inning.
Shelby again went down in order in the 5th inning.
The Indians would put up another run in the 6th inning, after a leadoff double by Strait, he was driven in by a double by Mason Ruether, for a 7-3 lead.
The Tigers again could not solve the slants of Cruzan on the mound, as they again were retired in order in their half of the 6th inning.
White Cloud brought their bats with them in the 7th inning, as Reece Hewitt led off the inning with a walk, Landyn McGowen made a bid for a home run as he hit a long fly ball straight away center field that hit 3/4 of the way up the fence for a double to score Hewitt, McGowen scored on a single by Jacob Francis, Nolan Wawzyck had a pitch hit single, Strait hit a single to drive in a run, Ruether walked to drive in a run, Alex Cruzan drove in another run with a single, Mason Cruzan walked, an error allowed 2 more runs to score, after the dust settled, the Indians would plate 8 runs in their half of the 7th inning for a 15-3 lead.
Mason Cruzan would again set the Tigers down in order for the 4th inning in a row.
White Cloud's offense was led by KJ Strait with 4 hits, 4 runs scored, and 4 RBI's, Mason Ruether collected 2 doubles, 2 runs scored and 4 RBI's, Alex Cruzan had 2 hits with a double, and 2 RBI's, along with hits by McGowen, Francis, Robinson and Wawczyk.
Landyn McGowen picked up the win on the mound, going 1 2/3 innings, allowing 4 walks, 1 hit, 2 runs scored, and 1 strikeout. Mason Cruzan picked up the save, throwing 5 1/3 innings, allowing 1 hit, 2 walks and no runs.
The Indian's record stands at 23-11-1 and will be back in Hart on Wednesday, to take on Benzie Central in the Regional Semi-finals.
Five members of the Fremont Packer Soccer Team were named to the West Michigan Conference All Conference Teams.
We contacted Coach Steve Vissia to share a few words on these players.
Mia Clemence - sophomore, forward, 29 goals, 13 assists. She had 8 game-winning goals on the year, scored in all but 2 matches, had a goal streak of 15 consecutive games, team co-captain, great leader who plays big in big games.
Maddie Mater - freshman, 9 goals, 4 assists, center midfielder. She has vision like few others I've ever coached. She sees things happen before they happen. She may be small in size but not in heart. She has a desire to be successful that fuels her.
Julianne Hernandez - senior, defender, team co-captain. She signed to play at Muskegon Community College last week and will be playing for them in the fall. She is tenacious when marking an opponent and her speed has bailed us out of bad situations all year long. She is a servant leader who places others before herself.
Grace Evans - freshman, center back defender. She started to really understand the position about halfway through the season and it made us a different team. She is smart and cuts off angles well. She became more and more confident as the year progressed and was a major part of our team only allowing 24 goals on the season.
Hailey Snyder - freshman, goalkeeper. 17 goals allowed, 79 saves, 1.283 goals against average, and 82.29 save percentage. She has great hands and absorbs the ball well. She is good in the air and can anticipate where the shot is going. One of her better qualities is that she learns from her mistakes and gets better and better as a result.
Lions beat the heat and the Wildcats to advance in a marathon District Final
Story by Tara Hefferan
Photos by Alexis Mercer
Last season, Newaygo Lions Girls Soccer won the District Title for the first time in program history. On Friday, June 2, they repeated the historic achievement by winning the title for a second time. In a hard-fought match that went both into double overtime and a shootout, the Lions were crowned District 47 champions, with a final score of 3-2.
Playing at home in the brutal 90-degree heat, the Lions faced what some players considered their toughest competition of the season. The Montague Wildcats have both speed and skill, and early on controlled possession, making several incursions into Lion territory. The Lions met the challenge, with senior center back and captain Sofia Briggs leading the backline. Along with outside backs Maddie Couch and Natalie Richardson and defensive midfielder Rachel Larsen, the defensive line was under constant pressure for the first quarter of the game but managed to contain and interrupt the Wildcats attack to limit shots.
Momentum shifted after the first scheduled water break, about ten minutes into the match, when the Lions assumed a more offensive posture, sending in several shots toward goal. The Lions secured the upper hand in the 37th minute, when Connelly Hefferan Nordlund and Grace Painter exchanged a give and go that opened space for Painter to dribble forward. Painter fired a shot from outside the 18-yard line, and while the Wildcat’s keeper initially appeared to have caught the low-driven ball, it instead slipped through her fingers into the back of the net. Senior captain Painter said, “There hadn’t been a goal yet, so I decided to take a chance from farther out. Luckily, I put enough pace on the ball to put it through the goalie’s hands. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be pretty, a goal is a goal.” With the game finally broken open, Newaygo players and fans erupted into cheers, while the Wildcats encouraged their keeper to shake off the error. As Painter said, the goal “gave the team some more energy and belief in ourselves.” The Lions took the 1-0 lead with three minutes left in the first half.
While the Wildcats dominated possession in the first half, they did not outshoot the Lions by much, largely owing to the talents of the defensive line. The Lions had 7 shots total, with 2 on goal and 1 in goal. The Wildcats had 9 shots total, with 2 on goal. The two were thrilling attempts, however, that highlighted Lion Keeper Barbara Toth’s impressive skills in net. As described by Toth “They shot high over my head, and I tipped the ball. It hit the crossbar and bounced right off into the feet of a Montague player. I quickly got to my feet and went straight at her. She shot it, and it bounced right off my chest into play again. It was one of my best saves ever.” Agreeing, senior midfielder Lynnea Briones said, “Barb’s incredible save is what gave me hope for us winning this game” while Briggs said, “Barbara’s double save was definitely one of the most important moments of the game.”
he Wildcats returned from the halftime break with determination, and fifteen minutes into the second half, they leveled the score. A failed attempt to clear the ball saw the Lions turning it over instead. The Wildcats pounced, dribbling forward from midfield into the center of the field, and then laying a pass off to the right. From the 18-yard line, Wildcat Ava Pelton fired a rocket into the upper left corner of the net, well out of Lion Keeper Toth’s reach. The Wildcats were even 1-1 with 24:42 left in the second half.
Shifting from their defensive shell, the Lions were able to generate several chances late in the second half, taking the lead again with just 5:37 minutes on the clock. From the right, Painter sent a corner kick into the box. Crashing the net from the left, Landry Hefferan Nordlund received the ball, sending a one touch short pass to C. Hefferan Nordlund in front of net. C. Hefferan Nordlund tapped the ball in past the defender and keeper to put the Lions ahead 2-1.
The lead was short-lived, however, because the Wildcats found their second goal only 30 seconds later. After good ball movement in the Lions defensive zone, Wildcat Pelton sent in a high-flying shot from distance that went over the head of Keeper Toth. The Lions and Wildcats were tied 2-2 as the final minutes of regulation play dwindled away. The game then moved into two ten-minute overtime periods. Newaygo had several good attempts on goal, but so too did the Wildcats, who twice in overtime bounced the ball off the crossbar. Unable to break the tie, the match moved to a penalty kick shootout.In a shootout, focus shifts from the team’s collective execution to individual performance, as just five players from each team initially serve as shooters. The combined ten designated players stand on the center line, then one by one, they alternate moving to the penalty line to face the opposing keeper. This is a dramatic scene, with all eyes trained on the single player making the long walk across the field and into shooting position. The team that scores the best out of five shots is declared the overall match winner.
This was a tense moment in an already highly charged game. As the fans crowded to watch from the north end of the field, nearest the shootout goal, the Wildcats had the advantage of going first. Confident and capable under high pressure situations, Keeper Toth made herself large as the first Wildcat got into position. However, Toth did not need to stop the initial shot, as it sailed wide of net. Shooting first for Newaygo was Connelly Hefferan Nordlund, who stepped to the line and fired her shot past Wildcat Keeper Addison Pranger. The Lions were ahead 1-0. The Wildcats found the back of the net with their second attempt, bringing the score to 1-1. Grace Painter shot second for the Lions, slotting the ball past Pranger once again. The Wildcats third attempt was not on goal, meaning the Lions had a 2-1 lead as Sofia Briggs stepped to the line. Briggs blasted the ball by Pranger, giving the Lions a 3-1 lead. This meant that the Wildcat’s third shooter was in a must-score situation. She was unable to deliver, however, and sent the ball above net. The Lions had won the shootout and claimed their second district title in as many years. As Briggs said, “I think our teams were pretty evenly matched. Both of us really wanted the title, so naturally we each put up a good fight. But when it came to the pk shootout, I think we were more collected and better prepared than they were.”
Winning the district title for a second time is an incredible achievement for Newaygo Girls Soccer. Lynnea Briones said, “It feels so, so good to be repeat champs. I feel like this is what we have been working so hard for our entire lives, and it just feels amazing” and Sofia Briggs commented, “It feels amazing to win districts again now for the second time ever in our school’s history. Our group of girls is really bringing recognition back to our school’s girls soccer team!”
This recognition also has special significance for the group of seniors who have played together for years. As senior captain Connelly Hefferan Nordlund said, winning “means a lot. We’ve grown together, and we’ve won and lost together. So, to end our senior year on such a winning season is really special.”
Reflecting on the match, Newaygo Coach Matt Painter said, “Tonight we faced a very talented Montague team who had several subs that kept them firing on all cylinders without missing a beat. Our girls never gave up, always believing that they deserved to be in this game. As regulation and then each overtime expired, I was praying that all the time we had spent practicing PK’s would pay off. Obviously, the girls did not disappoint! As I reflect on our season, we had two big goals for the team this year: Winning the Conference and then winning Districts. Check and check! On the way to these goals, the girls also put together an undefeated season! Watching this team grow together to be so successful has been an absolute honor. I am so proud to have had the chance to share this amazing season with this group of girls!
Newaygo’s record now stands at 18-0-1. Undefeated, the Lions have scored 95 goals, while conceding just 8. They now move to the Regional Semifinals against state-ranked Elk Rapids. The match is scheduled for June 6 at 7:00 PM in Clare. The Lions invite the community to come support them in this historic match.