By Jason Wesseldyk
For the past several years, the Michigan High School Athletic Association has made it a priority to encourage student-athletes to participate in several sports rather than specializing in one. The belief is that playing multiple sports will help produce a more well-rounded athlete and actually reduce the risk of injury.
It’s safe to assume Saugatuck coach Jordan Campbell buys into that line of thinking.
“With 14 multi-sport athletes on our roster, we’re as athletic and deep a team as we’ve ever been,” he said. “If we can stay healthy, we’ll be able to compete well with most of the teams on our schedule.”
The fact that the majority of players from last season’s team should further help the Indians as they strive to improve upon the 5-17 mark they amassed last season.
“I’m excited about the group we have this year,” said Campbell, who led Saugatuck to its first district final appearance last season. “We return most of our roster from last year and add a freshman class that will contribute in a lot of ways right from the start.”
Returning players include the senior group of midfielder Sydney Ayers, forward Casey Alexander, forward Claire Stannis, goalie Alexis Resseguie, defender Isabelle Quartermaine and midfielder Hayley Christine. Juniors Maddie Moore (midfield), Erin Stannis (defense) and Megan Shanahan (defense) also return, as do sophomores Delaney Dewey-Harney (forward), Ciarra Lamay (midfield) Olivia Ayers (defense) and Katie Kozub (defense).
Newcomers include sophomore defender Maddie Lenskjold along with the freshmen trio of forwards Karrisa Moerler, Emma Walker and Zoe Myers.
“I really like our overall athleticism,” Campbell said. “Our team will be faster and deeper than it’s ever been. We should also be fairly strong in the back and will rely on our backline to create space and opportunities for our midfielders and forwards.”
That athleticism should help the Indians overcome some of their shortcomings.
“We’re not a great ball control team right now, so a lot of our success will revolve around our ability to create opportunities in space on the field,” Campbell said. “We also had a hard time finishing around the net last year, so I’m hopeful we’ll be able to show improvement in that area.”
During each of Kyle Nevenzel’s first five seasons at the helm of the Fennville girls’ soccer program, the Blackhawks posted a winning record, including nine or more victories in four of those campaigns.
That changed last season, as Fennville finished the season with an 8-10-1 mark.
But with a host of returning players coupled with some incoming talent that will try to make an immediate impact, Nevenzel is optimistic his team can get back to its winning ways.
“We’re very excited about this season,” said Nevenzel, who boasts a 55-45-6 record with the girls’ program in addition to an 86-52-8 mark in eight seasons with the boys’ team in Fennville. “We have a nice mix of solid returning players to go with some impressive newcomers.”
Despite losing nine seniors to graduation, Fennville still returns 11 players with previous varsity experience.
One of those players is senior midfielder Isabela Marquez. After missing the past two seasons with injuries, Marquez is back for her senior season after playing club soccer in the fall.
Classmates Kamryn VanDyke (forward) and Jacky Diaz (midfield) also return, as do juniors Maya Ortiz (forward), Holly Laraway (defense), Jovanna DelaRosa (midfield), Jessica Mendoza (defense), Violet Price (midfield), Nataly Grose (defense) and Tabitha Martinez (goalie).
Sophomore midfielder Julie Mendoza rounds out the list of returning players after seeing action at the varsity level as a freshman last season.
Top newcomers include sophomore midfielder Malia Marquez, sophomore defender Christal Castillo and junior midfielder Melissa Flores.
“We’re looking forward to the continual development and improvement of this group as we compete day in and day out,” Nevenzel said. “We hope to be very competitive in league play this season.”
Having a deeper bench should help in that regard.
“We have more depth at each position, which should bode well for us throughout the season,” Nevenzel said.