By Aaron Poling

NORTH MUSKEGON – As the regular season winds down, most teams are preparing for what they hope will be successful runs in the upcoming state tournament.

The North Muskegon girls soccer team is no different. It’s just that the Norse have a better shot than most to make a long tournament run, so they are closely scrutinizing how they play.

Coming into Friday’s matchup with Western Michigan Christian, the Norse had only one blemish on their record – a 1-0 loss to a solid Holland West Ottawa team. In fact, the goal that was scored in that game is the only goal the Norse have allowed all season.

Hope Johnson looks down at the ball with teammate No. 17 Allie Jensen watching and WMC’s Nadia Burr defending. Photo/Randy Riksen

On Friday night the Norse beat the Warriors 5-0 at North Muskegon High School in non-conference action. North Muskegon improved to 13-1 on the season, while the Warriors fell to 8-5. 

Despite the victory, North Muskegon’s first-year coach Caleb Parnin was not completely happy with the effort.

“We are leaving with our heads a little down tonight,”Parnin said.  “I thought in the second half, we should have been able to do more up front. We got to know every bit of the post in the second half.”

Why would the Norse be upset with a 5-0 victory over a pretty solid team? They understand to reach their goal of a state title, they have to be very good all the time.

“There is an expectation that we have to win,” Parnin said. “I inherited a team that wins a lot. The girls expect to win, so we train that way. There are some really important fresh losses that are still on their minds, and they come fired up to play.”

The “fresh losses” that Parnin referred to were losses in the state semifinals to Kalamazoo Christian, in both 2018 and 2019.

“It makes us hungry,” North Muskegon senior Sophia Schotts said about those agonizing defeats. “We have been working on building a championship culture. Our captains have been meeting since the summertime, just trying to build our program up.”

Brooklyn Watts handles the ball for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

Credit has to be given to Western Michigan Christian, which bounced back from giving up five goals in the first half to blank the Norse in the second half. 

“We had to adjust, this is an amazing team – they are outstanding,” West Michigan Christian Coach Kevin Butler said about North Muskegon. “We really worked our tails off, especially having a light substitution line. We highlighted a few things that we needed to be aware of. We are a young team, and we needed to trust our judgement, which they did. It was awesome to see.”

Hope Johnson led the Norse offense with two goals and an assist. Audrey Wilson chipped in with a goal and two assists. Emily Olsen scored a goal and dished out an assist. Molly Stewart scored a goal, while Jaley Schultz added her name to the score sheet with an assist.

Syann Fairfield recorded a clean sheet in goal for the Norse. Warriors Keeper Elizabeth Mast made 21 saves .

The Norse outshot the Warriors 26-0.