Nobody has slowed down the North Muskegon girls soccer team lately, and now we know for sure that Kalamazoo Christian, the team that beat the Norse in the state semifinals by a goal in both 2018 and 2019, won’t get the chance to do it again.
North Muskegon sealed its spot in the Division 4 state semifinals for the third straight season (excluding the cancelled 2020 season) on Friday with a dominating 7-0 win over Midland Calvary Baptist in a regional championship contest in Cadillac.
Meanwhile, Kalamazoo Christian lost to Grandville Calvin Christian 2-0 on Friday. So the Norse will face Calvin Christian next Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Comstock Park High School, with a berth in the state finals on the line.
Hope Johnson and Natalie Pannucci were the heroes for North Muskegon on Friday, each collecting three-goal hat tricks to power the offense. Emily Olsen scored the other goal.
“The girls did a great job possessing the ball tonight,” North Muskegon Coach Caleb Parnin said after the game via phone interview. “There was a really good intensity. We possessed the ball for nearly 80 percent of the game. If we play like that we are a tough team to beat.”
Johnson opened the scoring for the Norse with an assist from Olsen, then Pannuci ripped off three goals in a row to put the game under control. Olsen picked up her second assist, while Johnson picked up an assist on Punnuci’s second and third goals.
“Hope (Johnson) is one of the best goal scorers around,” Coach Parnin said after the game. “She is a senior captain and a really good leader for our team. Natalie (Panucci) is an incredible athlete. She was All-State in volleyball, and her athleticism showed tonight.”
Getting special credit from the coach was the Norse back line, anchored by Sophia Schotts and Grace Vander Woude.
“Our backline was really good tonight,” Parnin said. “It’s a luxury to have players like Sophia and Grace on the back end. They are very solid back there, but get overlooked sometimes because of our offense.”
Not only are the players rallying around each other during the tournament run, but the North Muskegon community is rallying around the team as well.
“It is fun to see the girls and our community come together,” Parnin said. “There were a couple hundred North Muskegon soccer fans at the game tonight. It’s just a great time to be a Norseman.”
Johnson finished the night with three goals and two assists. Punnucci recorded an assist to go with her hat trick, while Olsen recorded a goal and two assists. Audrey Wilson added her name to the score sheet with a pair of assists, while goalkeepers Syann Fairfield and Emma Lamiman combined for the clean sheet.