By Nate Thompson
FRUITPORT — Marissa Hassevoort made an unusual bet with her mother, Toni, before the start of the Fruitport girls soccer team’s season this spring.
Sure enough, Hassevort located the small furry mammal at a prospective seller in Spring Lake, and she more than made up her end of the deal with goals scored.
“They’re kind of like a porcupine, but It’s small enough to fit in your hand,” Hassevoort said. “They’re really cute.”
The hedgehog surely doesn’t fit Hassevoort’s persona on the soccer field, as teammates and coaches have labeled her as ferocious. She has tallied an impressive 22 goals for Fruitport this season, which is just five shy of the school record held by Sarah Reed during the 2003 season.
Although Fruitport might be an underdog to come out as champion in its Division 2 district bracket that it hosts beginning Tuesday, Hassevoort gives them more than a fighting chance simply because of her outstanding goal-scoring ability.
“Her strengths are her work ethic, desire, but the real theme is she’s relentless,” said Fruitport head coach Jeannie McClain, who has led the Trojans to a 12-3-4 record. “She’s always looking to push forward (on the attack) and she doesn’t back down from anyone. And the thing is, she’s not a huge girl. She’s maybe 5-8 or 5-9 and petite, but she plays big.”
Hassevoort said she began playing the sport at the age of five, and honed her skills on travel teams under the coaching of her father, Doug.
“I’ve played travel with the Fruitport Fire,” she said. “And my dad has helped coach me until I got to high school.”
McClain said Hassevoort really developed from being a captain on Fruitport’s junior varsity squad as a freshmen. She was pulled up to varsity during tournament time as a freshman and has remained at that level throughout the rest of her career.
Still, even Hassevoort herself didn’t expect a scoring outburst like she has produced this spring.
“No way (did I expect 20),” she said. “I was hoping for 10. I scored like nine last year and to me, that’s a lot.”
But Hassevoort said she has good long-distance speed from her years playing midfielder, and a knack and fighting for position and scoring a lot of “scrappy goals.” She’s at an advantage, she said, because she’s comfortable firing on goal with either foot.
“If there’s an opportunity, I’m going to take it, and sometimes, I might get lucky,” she said. “I try to shoot as much as possible.”
As her goal total has risen, McClain has noticed that teams have begun marking defenders on Hassevoort, but she’s just as capable at finding open teammates for quality shots as well. McClain said Hassevoort has 6-8 assists this year, making her a matchup nightmare.
Fruitport matches up with Coopersville on Tuesday and if they can get past the Broncos, a third meeting with rival Spring Lake could be in store in the semifinals. The Lakers won both regular-season meetings against the Trojans.
“We just have to come out and play our game,” Hassevoort said. “That means connecting well on our passes and encouraging each other. We really do a good job at that. We never bicker at each other.”
Hassevoort has signed with Muskegon Community College to play volleyball, but a late-season shoulder injury in the sport may force a back-up plan to play soccer at the next level.
“It’s kind of up in the air,” she said. “We’re just waiting to see if I can make a full recovery. But it’s nice to know I have a second option.”
Aside from Hassevoort, McClain said Fruitport will need players such as four-year varsity player Lauren Maus to elevate her game in the postseason, as well as sophomore “Energizer bunny” Emily Winicki, who is second on the team in goals and assists.
McClain said the defense is lead by a pair of freshmen — Katie Hanks and sweeper Paige Stanley — while senior goalie Monica Holden has had a tremendous second half of the season.