Girls Soccer Preseason Top Players - Hundsonville's Michaela Kovacs is No. 1, Annie Walker of Grand Blanc is No. 2Soccer  |
The high school soccer landscape has changed gradually over the years, and in more ways the one.
Since soccer first started to establish a foothold in Michigan during the 1970s through the 1980s more and more girls soccer programs have kick-started and the talent level has increased each year.
Better coaching has led to an increase in the competitive level at clubs, and this increase in competition has allowed more programs to share in the pie of success compared to the soccer pockets, like those in Livonia and Novi, that dominated the sport in the early days.
Also of note, many of the state’s top players no longer play high school soccer for four years. Some in the Olympic Development Program national pool are gone training out of state or playing club soccer through Elite Clubs National League teams. Some of these ECNL girls teams play 10-month schedules that overlap with the high school season, leaving some top-level players having to make a choice.
Elite level players don’t always don the high school jersey.
For example, perhaps the state’s top two prep players, Birmingham Marian’s Kelley Sweeney and Troy’s Sarah Trocolli, will not suit up for their respective high schools this season. Sweeney recently was called up to the national team in her age group and will complete her high school degree on-line. Trocolli, a two-time Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association Dream Team selection, graduated from Troy in February and has enrolled early at Florida.
There’s still an abundance of talented high school players across the state. Nearly half of the all-state players from last season are back in uniform with several other rising stars dotting the maps from all corners of the Lower Peninsula. True, many yield from the tradition-rich programs. However, literally hundreds of seniors state-wide have signed to play in college. Legions of underclassmen have already to committed to play or are on the radar of college scouts of all levels.
With the some of the state’s top prospects not on high school teams, the race for the Miss Soccer award, given annually to the state’s top high school player by the MHSSCA, is wide open. Spots for the Dream Team are also wide open and the 400-player all-state lists – 100 per division for MHSAA-member schools – are also up for grabs.
Below is a list of some of the stars coaches from around the state are pointing to as the cream of the crop.
1. MICHAELA KOVACS, Hudsonville, sr., D/F: Put Kovacs in the back and she’s one of the state’s best defenders. Put her up top and she commands the ball and the respect of the opposition. And she plays for a non-power school, which had a sub-five-hundred record last season.
It doesn’t matter.
The versatile Kovacs, who plays club for the Grand Rapids Crew, is a prized recruit for Michigan State. A three-time All-OK Conference Red Division selection, Kovacs was a Division 1 all-state honorable mention selection as a freshman, made the second team as a sophomore and first team as a junior.
This year she has opened up with six goals and three assists in her team’s first four games and is considered the complete package by many coaches.
Kovacs is an ODP Midwest Region II pool player, a step below the national pool, and has earned multiple accolades and praise at the ODP level and through the Crew, which has emerged as one of the state’s top clubs in recent years.
Mark Mulder, Hudsonville’s veteran coach, says that he has been blessed coaching one of the state’s premier talents.
“I have coached high school girls soccer for 18 seasons,” he said. “Michaela is the best I have seen. She is an incredible athlete with an amazing read of the game. Style-wise she plays fast-paced and direct on the field. She has great speed and creates opportunities for herself and others by taking on defenders at any opportunity. She wins every ball her way out of the air.
“In talking to other coaches it is very difficult to plan to play against her because you can't simulate her speed, quickness, vision and intensity in practice. When she plays in the attack she demands a double team at the minimum when she receives the ball. She has grown into an amazing on field coach and leader who has been able to lift the level of the players around her this year to a point where we will compete in games we wouldn't have otherwise. Like I mentioned above she is the best player I have seen in my 18 years of coaching either on our team or those we have played against.”
2. ANNIE WALKER, Grand Blanc, sr., F/M: Another returning Division 1 all-state first team honoree, Walker is quite effective around the net and a load to mark because of her work ethic, range and sure speed and power. Headed to Rice, Walker ranks at or near the top of multiple Grand Blanc offensive records. She is a Vardar ECNL standout at the club level and very much in the discussion for Miss Soccer.
3. PAIGE DUDA, Utica Eisenhower, sr., M/F: Part of one of the state’s most potent offenses, Duda is gifted as both a set-up player and goal-scorer (25 goals as a junior). She has a quick touch, can unleash her shot from distance, has a knack for the goal and is great at finding teammates. Eisenhower will also score plenty on restarts due to the Central Michigan-bound Duda’s accuracy. She plays for the Michigan Hawks ECNL team and one of the few Hawks that play on the high school circuit.
4. JAMISON MIDGLEY, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, sr., F/D: The best player on the state’s top-ranked team, Midgley can play all over the field. Committed to Butler with a 3.85 GPA, the Vardar product has earned all-state accolades the past three years and is her school’s career leaders in scoring (47 goals, 19 assists). Coaches have long-since recognized not to leave her open with the ball. She is a game-changer.
5. MAYA PIPER, Midland Dow, sr., M/F: Perhaps the best player from mid-Michigan in several years, Piper is another player that can do it all. She’s scorched opposing defenses in her career with 63 goals and 28 assists and also suits up for the Michigan Hawks in the off-season. But the telling tale of going to the Big Ten and playing for Indiana in the fall proves her talent level. She is another player on an experienced team that could carry the Chargers a long ways in the postseason.
6. HANNAH JONES, Port Huron Northern, jr., M: Somehow Jones missed being selected all-state last season. That’s a shame. Many coaches across the state say Jones is the state’s top junior and the best to ever hail from the Port Huron area. Last season she led the Huskies to a school best 14-5-4 mark and was the 2014 Macomb Area Conference Blue Division player of the year. Behind 47 goals and 16 assists last year (72 goals and 26 assists in her career), Jones has quite the soccer pedigree -- a Vardar ECNL U-18 team member, an ODP Region II Team member and is ranked as one of the top 10 players in the region in her age group.
7. JUSTINE LYNN, Grosse Pointe North, sr., M: Named to the Division 1 all-state first team last season, Lynn is one of her school’s all-time greats. She deploys a great work ethic with fine field vision and the ODP Region II and Michigan Hawks ECNL member is headed to Indiana University in the fall.
8. ERIN DOSTER, Okemos, sr., M/F: While Okemos has lost some very talented players and has a new coach, Doster will undoubtedly carry the torch of a long legacy of top-level players for the Chieftains. The top-ranked player in the Lansing area, Doster also plays for the Hawks and is headed to Massachusetts. She is quick on the ball and excels as both a playmaker and finisher.
9. ISABELLA PALAZZOLO, Utica Eisenhower, sr., F: Hailing from Vardar’s ECNL side, Palazzolo was an all-state second team choice last season and a dangerous sniper due to her track speed and endurance. Playing Eisenhower is kind of like picking your poison. Palazzolo can strike it with the best of them and when there are several weapons who play well together, it’s hard to defend. Palazzolo had 16 goals and 15 assists last season, and she signed with St. Louis.
10. ALEXIS FRICKE, East Kentwood, sr., D: Fricke is a lock-down defender for an experienced team that returns 10 starters. An extremely aggressive player out of the back, Fricke plays club ball for the Grand Rapids Crew and has signed with Bowling Green. Teams will have a hard time scoring with her presence in the Falcons’ backfield.
11. CONNOR HUGGINS, Livonia Ladywood, jr., M/D: Considered one of the top three juniors in Michigan, Huggins hails from the Vardar ECNL U-17 squad and has already committed to Villanova. She often plays the shadows of other great players from both the Catholic League and western Wayne County. Huggins is tough to beat in the back. Her vision, pace and organized style of play makes her valuable anywhere on the field.
12. JENNA STOUDT, Detroit Country Day, sr., M: With Michelle Manning departing, Stoudt will take over the top spot at Country Day, which will contend for the Division 3 state title. The Georgetown signee and Vardar ECNL product is simply well-rounded. She’s the latest standout from one of Michigan’s most storied prep programs.
13. MARIA ZANDI, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek, sr., M: An underrated player, Zandi is a workhorse not only on the soccer pitch but one the basketball court as well. She signed with Oakland. Zandi’s greatest attributes are her field vision and her high energy level. The Vardar ECNL player was a tenacious point guard in basketball and is the engine in the middle of the field for the highly-touted Cougars. Zandi is the consummate team player, the school career assist leader in both sports.
14. JACLYN ENGEL, Birmingham Marian, sr., D: Headed for Dartmouth, Engel will take over the reigns as the Mustangs’ top player this season and is also considered one of the state’s top defensive players. She is steady as they come in the back and the Vardar ECNL standout has the tools to generate in the attack.
15. JACKIE WHITE, Dearborn Divine Child, sr., M: A powerful and well-seasoned player, White hails from the Vardar ECNL program. Perhaps a little overlooked of because her prep team is not a title contender, White is still headed for the University of Michigan. She was All-State last season in Division 2 and should be up for top honors this season.
16. SYDNEY BLITCHOK, Grandville, jr., M: On a team full of college recruits, Blitchok might be the best of them all. She committed to Iowa. The Grand Rapids Crew rep is the Bulldogs’ field general and anchor of the midfield. She was an all-state second team as a sophomore, led her team to the state runner-up spot two years ago and to the regional finals last season.
17. CECILIA STEINWASCHER, Utica Ford, so., F/M: Considered one of the state’s top sophomore prospects, Steinwascher missed the final third of last season and all of the Falcons’ run to the Division 1 semifinals with an injury. Talent-wise, she’s a Division I level prospect with a knack for scoring clutch goals. She is a ODP Region II player who still earned All-Macomb County First Team and All-MAC Red Division honors as a freshman and should rank high on the all-state teams this season if she stays healthy.
18. ALYSSA BURKE, Davison, sr., M/F: Earning Division 1 all-state honorable mention accolade the past three years, Burke is every bit as good as many players hailing from tradition-rich programs. She’s exceptionally fast and can both finish and excel as a set-up player. She is headed to Western Michigan and plays club for the MESA Panthers.
19. ERIN EMMANUEL, Livonia Churchill, sr., M: Emmanuel did not play high school soccer as a junior, playing solely with the Michigan Hawks last season. Returning to the Chargers for the first time since her freshman campaign, Emmanuel is a gifted play-maker who carries a 3.85 GPA and has signed with St. Louis. She will help Churchill become one of the better teams in the loaded KLAA.
20. LINDSAY EBELING, Stevensville Lakeshore, sr., M/F: The top player from southwestern Michigan, Ebeling is a returning all-state first team selection and a reason why her team will be D-2 state title contenders. Headed for Division II national powerhouse Grand Valley State, Ebeling, a three-time all-stater, can score, distribute and defend with the best of them.
21. SAM RIGA, Livonia Ladywood, sr., F: Defending D-II national champion Grand Valley State University in getting quite a steal in Riga, one of the most lethal snipers in the state. The all-state first team selection a year ago plays club for the Michigan Hawks ECNL team and is the type of field general that can lead the Blazers to some D-2 glory this year.
22. BRI COSTIGAN, Fenton, jr., M/F: Committed to Cincinnati, Costigan the Division 2 all-state second team pick is gifted as both a sniper and ball winner and distributor in the middle of the field.
23. TAYLOR BABCOCK, Farmington Hills Mercy, sr., M: Headed for the University of Portland, Babcock’s worth may not show up in the stat columns every game. She is the engine that makes the Marlins sail with her play-making abilities. She was all-state third team in Division 1 last season and the Michigan Rush club standout should be higher this season, when Mercy is expected to contend in the loaded Catholic League.
24. SADIE MISIEWICZ, Holland, jr., M: Misiewicz is the consummate team player for the Dutch, doing whatever it takes to lead her team to wins. She led Holland with 21 goals and five assists last season and garnered all-state second team honors in Division 2. Although her high school team has not advanced far in the tournament in recent years, her Alliance Academy club team has shined at the state level where she is the team’s top prospect. She has committed to Michigan State.
25. ASHLEY ROMANOWSKI, St. Clair Shores Lake Shore, jr., F: One of the best from Macomb County, Romanowski found the net 60 times during her first two seasons, including 34 goals last season as she made all-state in Division 2. Lake Shore’s competition is mostly D-1 schools. She has already picking up plenty of D-I and D-II college interest and has tucked in six goals with two assists in her first four games this season.
26. GRACE BUBIN, Rockford, sr., M/F: One of west Michigan’s top talents, Bubin is dangerous 1-on-1 but is extremely unselfish, making the players around her better. She had 16 goals and eight assists last season and the Grand Rapids Crew product carries a 4.35 GPA. A Division I college recruit with impeccable academic status, Bubin’s future is bright.
27. BAILEY KORHORN, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central, so., F: One of the state’s premier sophomore prospects, Korhorn is expected to have a breakout campaign this season, as the Rangers had numerous graduation losses. She’s exceptionally quick down the wings, has a powerful shot and reputation of being a clutch performer. She’s the highest ranked freshman in Division 1.
28. MADDY VAN DYKE, Hudsonville Unity Christian, jr., D: A sparkplug on defense, Van Dyke is a steady force in the backfield and one of the reasons why her prep team is amongst the favorites to win a ninth state title in Division 3.
29. AMANDA ZYLKSTRA, Saline, sr., M: Zylstra was voted a Division 1 all-state second team choice on the soccer pitch last spring and she’s exceptional on the basketball court for the Hornets. If her team is to make another deep run, Zylstra will have to serve as the team’s engine in the middle. She is still looking at Michigan State and Michigan for nursing school and has not decided if she will play soccer or basketball in college.
30. LIBBY MUNOZ, Leland, jr., F: Although she hails from the small town located north of Traverse City in the Leelanau Peninsula, Munoz is a rising star and a top 100 prospect in Michigan as both a basketball player and soccer standout. On the hardcourt, she has already scored over 1,000 career points, while on the soccer pitch she scored 64 goals last season, second for a single-season tally. The Grand Rapids Crew prospect is being recruited by multiple D-I and D-II schools in both sports.
OTHER FIELD PLAYERS TO WATCH
Forwards — Sierra Grodsinski, Hemlock jr.; Shannon Casey, Eisenhower jr.; Devyn Brough, W.L. Northern jr.; Whitney Fleming, Anchor Bay sr.; Laekyn Jaciuk, Southgate, sr.; Savanna Bosworth, Grandville jr.; Taylor Pardoski, Stoney Creek jr.; Angela Cataldo, W.L. Western sr.; Victoria Stutzman, Ovid-Elsie sr.; Caroline Fleming, Grosse Ile jr.; Karmyn Carter, Bloomfield Hills jr.; Jade Schramm, Oxford soph.; Madison Enderle, Birch Run soph.; Andrea Glubzinski, Flint Powers, sr.; Kirsten Taylor, Gull Lake sr.; Ashleigh Garcia, Lapeer soph.; Katelyn Mather, Avondale soph.; Jillian Kolster, GR Forest Hills Northern sr.; Hannah Cady, Lake Orion sr.; Amanda Pavletic, Gull Lake sr.; Hannah Pommavongsa, Gull Lake sr.; Kennedi Bullard, Ladywood sr.; Hannah Redoute, Marian soph.; Elaina Eckert, Marian soph.; Mackenzie Swinehart, Mattawan jr.; Hannah Horton, Milan sr.; Taryn Taugher, Freeland sr.; Kayley Buck, Paw Paw jr.; Jacquelyn Lynch, Ludington sr.; Chloe Salman, Paw Paw sr.; Mallory Hestwood, Lumen Christi sr.; Taylor Farrand, Swan Valley jr.; Madison Enderle, Birch Run soph.; Rachel Hoegeman, Lutheran North sr.; Mallory Stefanski, Manistee jr.; Andrea Glubzinski, Flint Powers, sr.; Britney Laaksonen, Kalamazoo Christian sr.; Alexys Riksen, W. Michigan Christian sr.; Jessica Manders, Manchester sr.; Victoria Lucido, Oakland Christian soph.; Hilary Curry, Calvin Christian sr.; Victoria Hedemark, Dansville sr.; Eri Kromeran, Gull Lake sr.; Kirin Kromer, Greenhills soph.; Emily Voss, Lansing Christian sr.; Sydnie Ahrens, Manchester sr.; Kathryn Atkinson, Byron sr.; Emily Vanfleet, Calvin Christian sr.; Haley Taylor, Cardinal Mooney Catholic, jr.; Taylor Tschirhart, Clinton soph.; Makenna Pronk, Freedom Baptist soph.; Alli Colby, Genesee Christian jr.; Erica Ianucci, Memphis sr.; Cailyn Hines, Quincy jr.; Emily Solek, Stoney Creek soph.; Ryenn McAdory, Rochester Adams sr.; Chani Warfield, East Kentwood sr.; Brittany Tanner, East Kentwood sr.; Jessica Halmachi, Novi sr.; Chloe Allen, Novi jr.; Rachel Braginton, Grandville sr.; Alex Griffin, Mercy sr.; Mallory Hestwood, Lumen Christi sr.; Jessica Owen, Grand Rapids South Christian sr.; Kayla Roodbeen, Macomb L’Anse Creuse North jr.; Cassie Phillps, Ann Arbor Skyline sr.; Amanda Pokriefka, Midland Dow sr.; Jasmine Hollins, West Bloomfield jr.; Erika Weist, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep jr.
Midfielders — Madison Toth, Stoney Creek sr.; Rachel Rodeheffer, W.L. Northern sr.; Marisa Pyden, W.L. Northern sr.; Gretchen Bakker-Arkema, Skyline sr.; Megan Riley, Novi jr.; Natalie Winters, Canton jr.; Lauren Bos, Royal Oak sr.; Taylor Mulder, Saline sr.; Lindsay Yankasky, Garden City sr.; Maddie Pogarch, Hartland sr.; Isabella Sortzi, Utica Ford sr.; Tara Liermen, Holt sr.; Madz Ham, Lake Orion sr.; Grace Labadie, Loy Norrix jr.; Megan Bonus, Utica Ford, sr.; Emma Voelker, W.L. Northern sr.; Abbey Lorenz, Woodhaven jr.; Delaney Horton, Bloomfield Hills jr.; Sophia Saves, Birmingham Roeper sr.; Ashley Leonard, Troy Athens soph.; Annika Zandee, Grand Rapids Christian sr.; Carley Dubbert, Stevenseville Lakeshore sr.; Allison Hartman, Avondale sr.; Hannah Tarnaski, Dexter jr.; Sydney O’Donnell, South Lyon East jr.; Mackenzie Mykala, Chelsea jr.; Amanda Simich, Chelsea jr.; Hana DeClerck, Cranbrook Kingswood jr.; Allison Sims, DeWitt sr.; Brennan Sullivan, Fenton jr.; Kylie Knight, Plymouth sr.; Lauren Maus, Fruitport jr.; Sydney Cason, Stevensville Lakeshore soph.; Katie Wills, North Muskegon sr.; Taylor Barry, Southfield Christian soph.; Sarah Buffm, Tri-unity Christian jr.; Rebecca Lohman, University Liggett soph.; Natalie Nitschman, Valley Lutheran jr.; Truly Hoenig, Stoney Creek soph.; Dagny Hill, Country Day soph.; Sarah Mazur, Notre Dame Prep sr.; Hannah Zapcynski, Notre Dame Prep jr.; Maddie Herbert, Clarkston sr.; Kara Martin, Hazel Park soph.; Riley Wisser, Gull Lake jr.; Jenna Baughman, Northville sr.; Kelsey Cheaney, Canton sr.; Chloe Donlin, Canton sr.; Kacey Cerretani, Mercy jr.; Lydia Bajmea, Grandville jr.; Savanah Bosworth, Grandville jr.; Kaley Buck, Paw Paw jr.; Bethany Balcer, Unity Christian sr.; Molly Kane, GR Catholic Central sr.; Mikayla Cyupp, Otsego sr.; Brianna Leggett, Allegan sr.; Hannah Davis, Big Rapids jr.; Cheyenne Enderle, Birch Run sr.; Lillian Schmidt, Frankenmuth soph.; Michelle Herring, Freeland soph.; Gabrielle Herring, Freeland sr.; Caroline Fleming, Grosse Ile jr.; Kate Tobin, Grosse Ile jr.; Gillian Carroll, Houghton Lake sr.; Kennedy Clothier, Flint Powers, sr.; Cierra Blust, South Christian jr.; Casandra Besteman, Unity Christian sr.; Lauren Moss, Warren Mott soph.; Meghan Healy, Brighton sr.; Mackenzie Chwailbog, Brighton sr.; Brianna Bishop, DeWitt jr.; Harley Gorzelski, Macomb Dakota jr.; Maddie Herbert, Clarkston sr.; Roselo LoChirco, Notre Dame Prep jr.; Kaitlin Richardson, Adams jr.; Amy Stroud, Marian jr.; Sophia Guzman, Grand Ledge sr.; Aubrey Hogan, East Lansing jr.; Lexi Trudeau, Grand Blanc, jr.
Defensemen — Carly Harvey, Stoney Creek sr.; Caitlyn Oliver, W.L. Northern sr.; Courtney Solek, Stoney Creek sr.; Jessica Bleckley, East Kentwood sr.; Maddie Tweddle, Saginaw Heritage jr.; Leah Moss, Salem, jr.; Randi Janette, Ortonville Brandon jr.; Amanda Minissale, Novi sr.; Ellie Grupenhoff, Rochester sr.; Sydney Lemelin, Woodhaven sr.; Emma Hagen, Troy soph.; Shannon Szedlack, Haslett sr.; Sarah George, Groves, sr.; Jalen Schoenbron-Kelly, Coopersville sr.; Brianna Bishop, DeWitt jr.; Emily Mindling, GR Christian jr.; Olivia Sullivan, Gull Lake; Grace Walterhouse, Linden sr.; Kaitlin Patouhas, Marian jr.; Erica Barlett, Mason sr.; Lyric Glasser, Reeths-Puffer sr.; Alexis Moody, Trenton sr.; Elly Brummel, Unity Christian sr.; Meghan Larabee, Oakridge, sr.; Sydney Walker, Paw Paw jr.; Libby Ronchetto, Country Day sr.; Katie Burns, Lansing CC, jr.; Katie Voisard, Otsego jr.; Logan Trefil, Ovid-Elsie sr.; Melissa Brittain, Parchment jr.; Cassidy Conner, Paw Paw jr.; Laena Blanchard, Williamston sr.; Brooklyn Deming, Paw Paw soph.; Rachel Pillpotts, Flint Powers, so.; Karly Drouin, Tri-County sr.; Morgan Buursma, Calvin Christian sr.; Leah Davis, Charlevoix, sr.; Anna Dehondt, Shrine, sr.; Sarah Butch, Bad Axe sr.; Allyson Kranstz, Kalamazoo Christian soph.; Lindsey Johnson, W. Michigan Christian sr.; Katie Wilkowski, Linden jr.; Paige Rachut, Plainwell sr.; Me Menna, Trenton jr.; Morgan Carey, Spring Lake jr.; Maddi Menna, Trenton jr.; Amanda Paull, Cheboygan sr.; Bethany Balcer, Unity Christian sr.; Molly Kane, Grand Rapids Catholic Central sr.; Dagny Hill, Country Day, so.; Mikayla Cupp, Otsego sr.; Sarah Mazur, Notre Dame Prep sr.; Brianna Leggett, Allegan sr.; Hannah Davis, Big Rapids jr.; Elizabeth Gonser, Grand Rapids CC sr.; Lillian Schmidt, Frankenmuth soph.; Taylor Herring, Freeland sr.; Hannah Herring, Freeland soph.; Gabrielle Mills, Freeland sr.; Caroline Fleming, Grosse Ile jr.; Kate Tobin, Grosse Ile jr.; Gillian Carroll, Houghton Lake sr.; Anyah Preston, Marshall sr.; Brei Davies, Paw Paw sr.; Kennedi Clothier, Flint Powers, sr.; Logan Hutek, Roscommon sr.; Cierra Bui