LAKEVIEW — The Lakeview Wildcats soccer team featured just four seniors and three juniors this season.
Despite the youth, and the fact one of their seniors (Megan Leach) was out all season because of injury, the Wildcats managed to finish the year 11-5-1. Lakeview finished second in the CSAA behind Newyago and lost to regional finalist Grand Rapids Catholic Central (plays Muskegon Oakridge in regional final tonight at Big Rapids) in the district tournament.
“Overall, I was very pleased with the season. We had the slow start because of the weather,” Lakeview coach Chris Smith said. “We had a lot of young girls I hadn’t seen yet, but they showed up. From the start we played well and got a lot of wins. I felt our losses were to good teams. We were one goal away from sharing a league title with Newaygo, so I can’t complain.”
Because of their play, four Wildcats earned first team CSAA honors and another three were named honorable mention.
Katie Johnson, Serena Johnson and Tori Nielsen were the other three seniors and all earned first team league honors. With Leach out, leadership duties fell to the trio of midfield seniors.
“All three are seniors, captains, midfielders and could pretty much go the entire game,” Smith said. “If they got a sub, it was for about two minutes. All three took on a leadership role this year and unfortunately, they are going to leave a big hole for us in the middle next year.”
Katie Johnson was a three-year starter and as Smith described, “a running machine.”
“She has been for three years now, just a running machine for us in the middle and is able to cover a lot of ground,” he said. “This year she did the same and with about five games left, she had to slide back to the defense because of an injury. She is one of those all-around players you can put anywhere and she will do well.”
Serena Johnson (no relation to Katie) was Lakeview’s second leading scorer.
“Serena was our second leading scorer this year and she was our penalty kick go-to girl,” Smith said. “She has a great shot and played the left side for us too, which is difficult to find someone comfortable on that side.”
Smith labeled Nielsen as aggressive and another runner.
“Tori was our aggressive player and another runner,” Smith said. “She doesn’t back down from anyone. She scored a couple of goals, but mostly was aggressive gaining possession for us.”
The fourth first team Wildcat was freshman Brookelyn Reed. Reed led the Wildcats in scoring and picked up where her older, graduated sister Ally left off a year ago.
Both Reeds had a knack for scoring, but just don’t compare the two. Each played a different style of game.
“She really is a different player. Ally made a majority of her goals based on her speed,” Smith said. “Brookelyn’s goals are more with her footwork and her moves. They both had a good shot, but that is what Brookelyn brought to us this year, being able to get the ball and dribble into some goals.”
Earning honorable mention for the Wildcats were a trio of sophomores in Rylee Nielsen (Tori’s sister), Maddi Shurlow and Danielle Grant.
Rylee Nielsen played defense and was another runner.
“She was another runner. The running goes with that family (Nielsen),” Smith said. “She can play the whole game, was probably my fastest defender and she also switched positions when needed because of injuries.”
Shurlow made her soccer debut this year, although you wouldn’t know it by watching her on the field.
“This was her first year of playing soccer. She was a softball girl,” Smith said. “She came over to soccer this year and you would think she had played soccer all along. She showed up and we found her a spot at midfield and was very comfortable with the ball.”
Winning games means talent up front and defensively. It was means having a goalkeeper that can stop some shots.
Danielle Grant, in her second her as starter, could do just that.
“Danielle has come a long way in those two years,” Smith said. “She made some really nice saves for us and kept us in some games. She had a low goals against average this year.”
With just four players gone from next year’s team, the Wildcats should be in good shape to make another run at a league title and possibly get back to winning district titles.
Final CSAA standings
3. Big Rapids
4. Reed City
Coach of the year: Matt Goebel, Newaygo