Girls Soccer Top 50 Teams Preview: Forest Hills Central has sites set on first title in nine yearsSoccer  |
Grand Rapids - Upset last season in the state tournament, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central steadily built fuel to the fire preparing for this season.
The Rangers look to play with vengeance, and a chip on their shoulders, after their goal of capturing their first state title since 2008, and fourth overall, came to a halt.
Forest Hills Central was ranked No. 1 in Division 1 for the final month of the 2016 regular season, but dropped a 2-1 decision to Canton in a state semifinal.
Most of its roster remains intact as Forest Hills Central is ranked in the top 20 nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (No. 16 in early April) and the No. 1 ranked team in the State Champs’ preseason Top 50.
The Rangers are capable of reaching the final weekend and winning the title. Forest Hills Central captured state titles in 2005, 2007 and 2008, all in Division 2.
The Rangers are paced by Miss Soccer candidate in senior Bailey Kohorn, a Dream Team selection last season after scoring 26 goals with 19 assists. Kohorn played both midfield and forward, and has signed with Cincinnati.
The Rangers’ potent offense also features junior forward Madeline Becker (Grand Valley State commit) who had 27 goals and 11 assists, and was named to the second team all-state. Sophomore Stephanie Currie is also a returning starter giving Forest Hills Central one of the top offenses in the state.
Junior transfer Madison Donley and sophomore Abigail Irving, a pair of newcomers, add even more depth to the midfield and forward positions.
As much firepower as the Rangers boast, this team is also staunch defensively. Junior Emma Yoder (Slippery Rock commit) is one of the state’s top goalkeepers. Sophomore Avery Tack, junior Natalie Lunt, and seniors Katie Clay and Maddie Everin, a pair of four-year varsity players, unite to form a stingy backfield.
2. ROCHESTER HILLS STONEY CREEK (18-3-3): The Cougars captured their first Division 1 a year later than expected with a young team in 2016. If Stoney Creek repeats it won't be a surprise as this team is ranked 23rd nationally and are off to a 5-0-0 start. The Cougars graduated three players, two of whom were starters, and had three players defect to club soccer. The roster remains deep and talented. Senior goalie Gina Cerny, senior center back Amanda Harvey, sophomore backs Lauren Orlando, Amelia Kuntzman and Megan Solek, senior F/M Truly Hoenig (Oakland), senior midfielders Lindsay Schupbach and Emily Solek (All-State First Team) are all returning starters. Seniors Nicole Eichberger, Sofia Zambrano and Shelby Howe and 6-foot-1 junior D Isabella Ubaydai have moved into starting roles and all can play defense or in the midfield. Freshman Isabella Pardoski and junior Nicole Leone are new starters up top.
3. BIRMINGHAM MARIAN (16-3-2): Marian has five state titles and three more state runner-up finishes in the last 15 seasons. The Mustangs lost in the semifinals to Pontiac Notre Dame Prep last season (1-0). The roster is loaded with college recruits and Marian is ranked No. 1 in the first Division 2 coaches’ poll for a reason. Senior M Elaina Eckert (Marquette), senior D Maria Kaschalk (Troy), senior F Ellie DeConinck (Washington-St. Louis) and senior D Olivia Zardus are all four-year starters. Junior M Claudia Schilling (Virginia) and junior F Annie Bruce (Cincinnati), sophomore D Jansen Eichenlaug (Virginia) and sophomore M Katie Sullivan (Western Michigan) add to the loaded roster. Sophomores Morgan Cochran and Neve Badalow and freshman Anna Leonard are the newcomers that add depth.
4. BRIGHTON (18-2-3): After losing in the regional semifinals last season to Novi, Brighton is back in the fold and the Bulldogs are capable of bringing home a state title. Junior F Meghan McCord was the leading goal scorer last season and F Emma Shinsky (All-State honorable mention) has signed with Colorado State. Juniors F Alicia Shatrau, midfielders Alexis Shatrau and MacCulley Barry and D Sydney Ivers are returning starters. Juniors Emma Gould and Kayla Foran, senior midfielders Grace Vankannel and Sarah Caldwell, senior D Emily Brown, junior D Lexi Vandemergel and junior M Ellie Saladin also have plenty of experience. Freshman D Mia Hansen leads a talented cast of newcomers.
5. CANTON (17-3-4): The Chiefs put together a string of upsets in reaching the Division 1 final last season before being outmatched by Stoney Creek. This year there are 16 returnees and 12 seniors. Senior F Hannah Lapko (25 goals, Ferris State) earned All-State first team honors last season. Senior forwards Jen Richmond (All-State honorable mention), Raquel Church and Monica Newton add to a quality attack. Seniors Abigail Heyde, Megan Williams and Sydney Schembri, along with sophomores Carly Schwinke and Marlee Taylor and Katie Nestico anchor a deep midfield. Seniors Nicole Doucet, Kaleigh Mahaz, Sarah Willette and Nicki Giodano form the backline and senior Marine Kennedy is the new goalkeeper.
6. UTICA EISENHOWER (20-1-0): After opening the season with a surprising loss, Eisenhower is back to form with a No. 5 ranking in Division 1 behind another loaded roster. This club lost in a district final last season to Stoney Creek. Senior M/F Gabriela Jodzis (Michigan State, Dream Team), senior F Jillian Winarski, sophomore forward Lauren DeBeau, junior D Holly Morris and freshmen F Meike Ingles are the highly-touted players on the Eagles’ roster. Junior G Elizabeth McConkie, senior M Sofia DiMercurio, senior D Jenna Pettke, senior F Sabrina Raveane, senior D Rylie Tengler and sophomore D Emma Campbell are returning starters. Freshman D Megan Sidaway is another quality prospect.
7. UTICA FORD (12-3-1): Back-to-back runner-up finishes in the MAC Red Division will serve as motivation for another highly-talented team looking to contend for a championship at all levels. The Falcons boast senior F/M Cecilia Steinwascher (Grand Valley State), a Dream Team pick last season, and junior M Darline Radamaker (U-23 Haitian National Team) in their deep lineup. Sophomore D Alana Wood, junior F Julie Ann Piechocki, senior M Chloe Chatzis (Eastern Michigan), senior F Salena Speagle, senior D Olivia Parra (Detroit Mercy), sophomore Shyla Peters and junior G Maddie Vick are also returning starters. Freshmen Jessica Koje (D) and F Jenna Vasquez (F) and sophomore G Emma Boutorwick (Toledo commit) are newcomers, with Boutorwick coming over from ECNL Vardar club soccer.
8. NOVI (16-2-6): The sting of a shootout loss to Stoney Creek in the state semifinals lingers and the loss of two Dream Team players, and two other All-State selections, will limit the star power. Nevertheless the Wildcats, ranked No. 8 in Division 1, are still in the picture. Sophomore midfielders Jessie Bandyk and Emma Takata, senior D/M Jacalyn Schubring, junior D Riley Schultz, sophomore Lauren Calhoun, senior D Grace Backus, and senior forwards Annie Fisher and Bailey Baumbrick will pick up the slack. Junior G Callie Rich and freshmen Avery Frenchel and Michelle Jecmen are key additions. Novi has won five state titles in the past 12 seasons.
9. FLINT POWERS (21-3-1): Despite its fine play last season the Chargers still fell 2-1 to Hudsonville Unity Christian in the Division 3 final. This season the top-ranked Chargers have bolstered their non-league schedule and own a victory over defending Division 2 state champ Notre Dame Prep. Powers boasts two of the state’s top players in versatile senior D/M Rachel Philpotts (Wisconsin-Milwaukee) and sophomore F Rachel Rasins (Columbia commit), a pair of All-State first team selections. Senior backs Abby Clothier and Sydney Wilhoite (All-State third team), senior D/M Emilee Pechette, junior M Maddy Cardinal and junior D Sophie Bubner (All-State second team) are all back. Senior M Sophia Dubiel is another four-year starter. There are several new players up from a 16-1 junior varsity squad. The Chargers started 5-0-0 and outscored the opposition, 24-5.
10. PONTIAC NOTRE DAME PREP (21-1-3): The Fighting Irish put together a memorable run last season in winning a state title. That included a come-from-behind shootout win over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern in the final. Although a slow start in April dropped Prep back to fifth in the rankings, this team is still formidable. Senior D Nadia Burbank (All-State honorable mention), sophomore M/F Celia Gaynor, senior backs Eileen Haig and Payton Williams, sophomore F Justice Gaynor, senior M Olivia Mears and sophomore midfielders Maura Kruse and Stephanie Maniaci will all be key players this season.
11. PLYMOUTH (11-7-5): Ranked No. 7 in Division 1, Plymouth appears to be ready to challenge fellow KLAA powers behind an experienced group and a number of talented freshmen. Junior M Haley Melnick, sophomore D Eva Davis, senior F Alexis White, junior M Breanna Pfeiffer and sophomore G Rebecca Przybylo are returning starters. Freshman G Ashley Bowles will be one to watch. Seniors Rachel Rubio and Eva Davis anchor the backfield. The Wildcats began the season 6-0-0.
12. GRAND RAPIDS FOREST HILLS NORTHERN (16-4-4): A defensive minded squad, Forest Hills Northern rode that stingy backfield play to the Division 2 final last season. Junior D Emily Ashby (Michigan, All-State first team), senior M Natalie Belsito (Central Michigan, All-State second team), senior G Amanda young (Michigan Tech, All-State first team), junior D/G Lauren Kozal (Michigan State) are all big-time players. Senior M Sophi Terzes (Bellemine, All-State third team), senior D Krystina Dunston (Davenport) are two more college-ready players. Addie Brown (M/F) and Paige Myers (D) are among five freshman on the roster.
13. GRAND BLANC (17-3-6): A state finalist in 2015 and a regional semifinalist in 2016, Grand Blanc is always capable of a lengthy run and this year will be no exception. Senior backs Chelsea Clark and Lexi Childers are team leaders. Juniors Morgan Metzger (F, Valparaiso), Morgan Jewell (D, Northern Kentucky) and Ashton Cassel (M, Toledo) are all experienced players. Senior Maddie Fox and sophomore Madison McKay will share time in goal, and junior F Laura Wheeler is a capable goal scorer. Freshmen Faith Webber, Jenna Blackburn and Isabelle Walker, and sophomore Ally Childers are four newcomers that will have an impact. The Bobcats are ranked ninth in Division 1.
14. TROY ATHENS (16-4-2): The Red Hawks are right where they have been for most of the past three-plus decades - one of the top programs in the state. Athens reached a regional final last year and the state semifinals in 2015. Senior F/M Ashley Leonard (Western Kentucky, Dream Team) is one of the state's top players and tops the six returning starters. Senior F Lindsey Boots, senior midfielders Aubreigh Wachowski, Alexis Rogers and Hayley Rauser and senior Kelsey Malven are also back. Senior D Jenna Pena, junior D Emma Haggarty, senior M Heidi Berschbach and junior G Julia Lower move into starting roles. Sophomore M Skyla Gebauer, sophomore D Brooke Russell and freshman M All Leonard all are impact players. Junior D Kaylie Peake (Oakland commit) will miss most of the season to injury.
15. DEWITT (21-1-0): Despite being ranked No. 1 in Division 2 for a bulk of last season, DeWitt lost in a regional semifinal to eventual state champion Notre Dame Prep. Senior M/F Danielle Stephan (Dream Team) is in the ODP National Pool and the leading candidate for Miss Soccer. Senior G Brooklyn Holley is coming back from an injury, senior D/M Jessah McManus, senior M/F Mackenzie Dawes, senior D Madelyn Dickens, sophomore M/F Lily Stephan, senior M/D Lauren Payne, senior M Made Tiemann, senior D Katherine Locher and junior F/M Taylor Bishop all started at times last season.
16. ROCHESTER ADAMS (12-4-5): Despite having only two seniors and finishing fifth in the OAA Red Division last season, the Highlanders managed to win a district title. Senior D Ryann Owusu (Western Michigan, All-State second team)), junior M/F Hailey Wetzloff, junior M Tami Smith, senior M Anna Heath sophomore F Sara Samonski, senior M/D Hanna Smimard, senior D Kara Bronni and junior M Ava Bronsetti. Freshmen Justice Tillison (F) and Sara Bridenstein (D) and sophomore M Emma McCaughty are three newcomers who should make an impact. Senior newcomer Maggie Rogers in a Division I recruit in goal.
17. BLOOMFIELD HILLS (12-5-2): Ranked 10th in Division 1, the Blackhawks won the OAA Red Division title last season and reached a district final. Senior M/F Sam Ferry (Bellarmine University, All-State third team), junior F Christina Hickson, sophomore M Sydney Huston, junior D Bridget Paulon, junior G Becca Hancock, senior D Claire Beresford and junior D Lyric Sykes are returning starters. Freshmen midfielders Melissa Briggs and Molly Paulon will help the cause.
18. PORTAGE CENTRAL (12-7-1): Injuries sidetracked Central last season and the Mustangs were bounced in a district semifinal. There are 14 returning letter winners and eight players that have signed or committed to play in college. Ranked No. 12 in Division 1 in the first polls, Central has two highly-touted players in senior D Devin Jaqua, who has signed with Michigan State and was injured most of last year, and sophomore F Alana Richmond (All-State honorable mention), who has committed to Western Michigan. Senior D Tylor Maystead (Adrian), senior D Audrey Haines (Sienna Heights), junior D Madison Strayer (Adrian), junior M Morgan Wright, junior M Kayla Mathieu, sophomore Samantha Hawn, junior F Emily Mergener, senior F Josie Sibley. Senior Jennifer Warnicke (Kendall) and junior Macie DeWyse give this team two quality goalkeepers, Three freshmen forwards, Jenna Little, Lauren McColley and Jaclyn Sibley, add pop to the forward line.
19. LIVONIA STEVENSON (15-5-3): The Spartans, a powerhouse in previous decades, made a move back into the Division 1 top 20 and are ranked No. 13 this season. Junior F Audrey Kopitz (All-State honorable mention) is on an offensive tear to start the season. Senior M Megan Verant (All-State third team) and junior F/D Kennedy Thurlow (All-State honorable mention, Central Michigan) are fine players. Senior D Alyssa Benvenuti, sr. D Yasmine Jaafar, junior M Kayla Gacioch, senior F Maria Bayyouk, sophomore M Sarah Dressing and sophomore G Haley Demers all started games last year. Senior D Emma Werthman, senior F Sarah Monte and freshmen Abby Werthman, Meredith Hage and Mackenzie Fifer will contribute.
20. HUDSONVILLE UNITY CHRISTIAN (22-2-1): With 10 state titles since 2004, this program has done everything to assert itself annually into the top 50 despite being a Division 3 school. There is still plenty of holdover talent for the O-K Green Division and defending state champions. Led by senior backs Katrina Goebel and MaKenna VanKoevering. Junior D Gracie DeYoung, senior M Emily Orr, senior M/D Alaina Van Zalen, junior M Lexi Ponstein, senior M Grace Visser, senior F Katrina Goebel and senior G Emily Ponstein all return, and Christian is strong once again. Freshman F Rylee Vruggink will be one to watch.
21. MUSKEGON MONA SHORES (13-4-3): Here’s a statistic. No Muskegon-area school has reached a Class A/Division 1 semifinal. The Sailors hope to change that and won't be the biggest kept secret for long. They opened ranked a school-best No. 6. Sophomore F Reagan Cox is a rising star and on an offensive tear, scoring six goals with seven assists as Mona Shores is off to a school-record 5-0-0 start. Senior M/D Isabel Grace, junior F Sara Miesell, senior midfielders Nora Brown and Payton Emptemen, junior D Haley Garlan and junior G Megan Swanker help form a talented cast.
22. SALINE (13-4-3): Two years removed from a 22-0-3 season and the school’s first state title, the Hornets hope to make another strong tournament run after losing to Ann Arbor Pioneer in a district semifinal. Junior Morgan Jones and senior F Hannah Bird both earned All-State second team status last season, and seniors Bella Petrock, Maeve Skelly and Sydney Jarvela all return to the midfield. Senior D Emma Wright, junior M Tate Robinson, sophomore Devin Reilly are also back. Junior F Anika Dahlmann has made an immediate impact after competing on the club side with the ECNL Michigan Hawks.
23. LINDEN (16-3-1): For a program that has chalked up as many wins in the past decade as the Eagles, Linden is still seeking its first state semifinal appearance. This year’s 5-1-0 start has been led by senior midfielders Maddie Zayan and Alia Frederick. Senior G Madison Paige, senior M Taylor Acox, sophomore F Audrey Steiert, junior F Emily Waltrip, senior D/M Erica Breitling and senior D Samantha Hawkins and junior M Hannah Abel are all key players. Linden had 13 shutouts last season and outscored its first six opponents this season, 19-5.
24. EAST KENTWOOD (15-3-1): Led by senior G Maia Perez (All-State first team, Hartford), who has over 40 career shutouts, the Falcons will be tough to score upon this season. Senior D Madison Mohr (Grand Valley State, All-State honorable mention), senior F Janelle Quinn (Ferris State) and senior M/F Chloe Quinn are all college-bound players. Senior M Emily VanGorden and senior D Lindsay Juzwiak, senior M Emily VanDuinen and senior D Gwen Hoeksema are all seasoned veterans. East Kentwood lost in a district final last season in double overtime to Forest Hills Central after reaching a state semifinal in 2015.
25. TRENTON (21-3-0): Six consecutive district titles, two straight Downriver League championships, a regional semifinal appearance last season and a state semifinal appearance two years ago are some of the achievements this Downriver League program has earned in recent years. Last season the Trojans allowed 10 goals in 24 games (a 0.42 goals-against-average). There is plenty of college-level talent on the roster led by senior M/F Angie Davis (All-State first team, Grand Valley State), D Marla Cobeto (Eastern Michigan), M Maddie Knaggs (East Carolina) and M Lauren Pifer (Madonna). Senior D Elyssa Moody, senior G Christina Wynn, junior F McKenna Mahoney, junior D/M Kate Olzsewski and junior F/M Sara Vince are also returning starters. Sophomore M Makenna Mascaro is also a fine player.
26. DEXTER (20-2-1): Reaching their first state semifinal since 2008, the Dreadnaughts enjoyed a lengthy postseason run and have big plans for 2017. They’re ranked No. 7 in Division 2. There are 16 returning players that have contributed to a 3-1-1 start. Senior M Emily Zeitunian (Michigan Tech) earned All-State first team honors last season. Senior F Morgan Esoh (All-State honorable mention), senior G Caitlin Micaleff (All-State third team) and junior M Sammi Corcoran (All-State honorable mention) are also back. Senior M/D Claire Ketzner and senior D Louis Judge are solid in their own right. A mainstay in the top 20 since the early 2000s, Dexter seeks its first state final.
27. WOODHAVEN (20-4-3): Perhaps the most successful downriver Division 1 program, Woodhaven is still seeking its first state semifinal appearance. Senior F Katie Varney (Davenport, All-State third team), senior M Taylor Hudgins, senior M/D Sydney Acosta, senior D Sarah Cislo and senior G Kerstyn Williams (All-State honorable mention), junior F/M Samantha Clinton, junior D Becky Both, junior Natalia Milanowski, junior D/M Nicole May and sophomore M Caitlin Brown are all key returnees. Woodhaven recorded 18 shutouts last season and is ranked No. 15 this season.
28. RICHLAND GULL LAKE (19-3-0): After winning three consecutive Division 2 titles, the Blue Devils took a step back in 2016 and lost in a regional semifinal. Holding down the No. 9 spot in the state rankings, Gull Lake appears primed for another quality season and long playoff run. Owners of 103 wins over the past four seasons, Gull Lake welcomes back sophomore M/F Riley Wisser, an All-State first team pick and a Division I recruit. Sophomore G Sophie Tilbury, senior D Autumn Hoyt, junior D Nicole Miller, senior F Grace Clancy, sophomore F Avery Cook, junior M Taylor Wesley and sophomore F/M Emma Hanna are returning starters.
29. GRANDVILLE (21-2-0): Despite losing five players to the college ranks, including Miss Soccer Sydney Blitchok, this team will still be highly competitive, though young. Senior F Merin McDermott and freshman M Jen Blitchok lead the way. Sophomore F Alexa Dekam, junior D Erin Walski and junior G Erika Gabriel also return. Grandville has won five consecutive district titles and lost in a regional final to Forest Hills Central (4-1) last season.
30. OKEMOS (13-6-2): Division 1 state champs in 2012, Okemos looks to become a top-level team again this season after r