By Dave Tomczak
NORTH MUSKEGON – It was bound to happen, sooner or later.
That ended on Wednesday, when they surrendered a goal to Whitehall in the West Michigan Conference championship game.
But that’s all that went wrong for the Norse. While they finally gave up a single goal, Sophie Mueller was scoring them in bunches, propelling North Muskegon a 7-1 victory and the conference tournament championship.
Mueller finished with an incredible five goals, along with an assist.
The victory gave the Norse their third straight conference tournament championship, and extended their conference winning streak to 30 games.
North Muskegon is now 17-0 on the season.
“Well, that’s off our backs now,” said North Muskegon Coach Ryan Berends about his team finally giving up a goal. “But we achieved what we wanted – a conference championship, we’re 30-0 in conference play, and we came out of this game healthy and happy.”
North Muskegon took a 1-0 lead eight minutes into the game when Haley Slorf sent a crossing pass in front of the net. The first Norse player missed it, but Gwenna Pitts found the ball and knocked it into the top of the net.
That lead lasted another 22 minutes, while the Vikings defense kept North Muskegon bottled up at midfield, and Whitehall goalie Kacy Jeffries denied anything that got close.
But Mueller began her scoring assault with 10 minutes left in the half, taking a pass from Pitts, breaking in alone on Jeffries, and putting the Norse up 2-0 at halftime.
The second half was barely under way when Mueller struck again. Hope Johnson started things off by streaking straight down the middle of the field, drawing Jeffries out of the net and getting the ball to Mueller, who put it into the wide-open net just 11 seconds into the half.
Johnson set up Mueller for another goal just 16 seconds later, and the Norse had a 4-0 lead with 39:32 still remaining in the game.
“The first half we played well, we just weren’t connecting,” Mueller said. “Coach got us pumped up at half, gave us little bits of advice on what to do, and we were hyped coming out.”
Whitehall was whistled for a hand infraction with about 34 minutes remaining, and Mueller was awarded a penalty kick. She fired right and Jeffries dove right, but the ball bounced off the goaltender’s fingertips into the net, giving the Norse a 5-0 lead.
A minute later Johnson scored, with an assist from Mueller, and the score was 6-0.
“Those two play so well together,” Berends said about Mueller and Johnson. “They’re so unselfish. The whole team is. The girls did everything we asked them to in that second half.”
Mueller finished off her big night with a goal with 18:22 left in the game.
North Muskegon’s shutout streak came to an end with 17:01 remaining.
Whitehall’s Emma Thompson was dragged down on her way to the goal, resulting in a penalty kick. She drilled the ball into the top right corner of the net to make the score 7-1.
North Muskegon finished the game with a 24-5 shot advantage. Norse goalie Bodie Collins had four saves.
Jeffries finished with 17 saves for the Vikings.