Jackie Holland-Decker

Rockford girls soccer falls to Reeths-Puffer in district final

June 10, 2010 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER As the announcer counted down the final seconds of the district final Saturday afternoon at Grand Haven High School, the Rockford girls soccer team watched the championship slip between their fingers. The Rams had outshot Reeths-Puffer 15-7 in the title game, but their fiery opponents outscored them 3-2 to capture the win. The Rockets have now advanced to the regional opener against Okemos Tuesday night at Holt. “This is a disappointing loss,” admitted Coach Amira Ponne, whose team ends the season with a 10-9-1 record. “It has happened to us all season, but it’s too bad it had to happen today. We played possession so beautifully. We controlled the field. We were better, and they know it. We just played so great, but their keeper did a good job. She wasn’t fumbling anything we put to her.” The Rockets’ overly aggressive play earned them many fouls, a yellow card, and plenty of jeers from the Rockford crowd, but that aggressiveness and opportunistic thinking surely paved the way for their victory. Senior Emily Lindebaum, who sat out for 10 minutes after earning the yellow card, scored their final two goals by muscling her way into key scoring positions. The Rams, who tied the Rockets earlier in the season, lit up the scoreboard first when senior Al Huyser’s precision passing found freshman Erika Bradfield open in the midfield. Bradfield’s shot floated up over the outstretched fingers of the Rockets’ goalkeeper Erin Caughey with 15:53 left in the first half. Back-to-back goals 10 minutes later gave the Rockets a 2-1 advantage going into the half. Senior Emily Swain tied the game when she broke away from the Rockford defense, charged up the middle, and shot the ball past Rockford goalkeeper Karlee Fluegel with 5:06 left in the half. Just 24 seconds later, Lindebaum muscled her way into position and made an unobstructed shot from close range. The Rams tied it up with 15 minutes left in the game by a beautifully placed corner shot from junior Emily Cowan. Although Huyser had stepped up to take the shot and already had the ball in the corner, Ponne called for Cowan to take the shot with the hopes that Huyser or her twin sister Kate might get […]

Rockford varsity soccer shuts out Jenison in last home game

June 3, 2010 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER The seniors on the Rockford girls varsity soccer team won’t play at Rams Stadium ever again. Wednesday night, May 26, as they wrapped up their conference tournament run there, they left their final mark on the pitch by beating Jenison 5-0. The 12th-graders, most of whom have played together on teams for at least a third of their lives, stole the show in their second rout of the visiting Wildcats, scoring all five goals. Nine of the 10 players were on the field as the clock ticked off those final seconds. Defender Katie Purvis—who was injured in the Rams’ first game against Jenison on April 23 and faces surgery this summer—cheered madly from the sidelines. “It was fun to watch them end the game together,” said Coach Amira Ponne, who has coached all but one of the seniors since their freshman year. “They came off smiling and hugging one another. It wasn’t sad; it was celebratory. They have played together their whole lives. It’s a big part of their childhood memories, which go back to the soccer field, and of course in high school, that includes Rams Stadium. They showed their leadership in the game and how strong they are as a class. They can get the job done. The underclassmen and juniors are really going to need to step it up next year.” Ponne began her coaching career at Rockford four years ago as the junior varsity coach with nine of the 10 players: Jenna Lysne, Jordan Diffenderfer, Allison Huyser, Kate Huyser, Jenna Odem, Celine Stallmer, Kori Brown, Sondra Weaver, and Purvis. The 10th senior, Sam Decker, played on the varsity team as a freshman. All 10 played for the Soccer Club of Rockford (SCOR) through ninth grade, and all but Decker continued with the club through their senior season under the tutelage of long-time coaches Ian Purvis and John Stallmer. Decker, who will play next year for Grand Valley State University, spent the last three club seasons playing for Grand Rapids Junior Crew. The victory over Jenison, which was delayed an hour because of lightning, helped the Rams secure a tie for third place with Grand Haven in the OK Red conference. Undefeated East Kentwood, which beat Rockford 2-1 in […]

East Kentwood defeats Rockford soccer in battle for league lead

May 27, 2010 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER The annual conference game between the Rockford varsity girls soccer team and the East Kentwood Falcons is always a “clash of the Titans,” and Friday’s fight for the OK Red lead was no exception. The Rams and Falcons were mirror images of each other in many ways, but one small fact made all of the difference: East Kead with Class B leader Spring Lake three weeks ago. Holding the Lakers to a tie for the entire game, the Rams lost in the final three minutes. Ditto against Kentwood. The Rams scored first when the Huyser twins, Kate and Al, made the Falcons take a double take just four minutes into the game. Al took a corner kick from the left side and her sister placed herself in front of the net to take advantage of the opportunity. East Kentwood’s Becca Means, who will take her talent to Central Michigan University next fall, tied the game six minutes later, racing past the defense and putting it into the left side of the net. The next 65 minutes saw the two teams at a stalemate, with both teams having opportunities and neither scoring. Credit Rockford’s flat-back four defense, especially the play of senior Celine Stallmer, with keeping Means and company out of the net. Stallmer—who played the best game of her life, according to Ponne—was a pest to the future Chippewa, and her relentless pressure forced Means to switch sides of the field to try to score from another angle. “They were a very physical team,” said Stallmer. “I’m not a dirty player, but you had to body up and be confident to hold your ground. You had to go for every 50/50 ball and know you are going to come out on top.” Rockford goalie Karlee Fluegel was also at the top of her game, deflecting, punching out or catching all but two of the Falcon shots. That 11th shot on goal by East Kentwood’s Casey McMillan was basically a non-defendable goal. McMillan took the pass from the right, turned at an awkward angle, and sent the ball flying into the net with 3:13 remaining in the game. The Rams almost scored as time ran out. Al Huyser patiently passed the ball right […]

Rockford girls soccer overcomes sorrow to succeed

May 6, 2010 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER Sorrow played a heavy hand against the Rockford girls soccer team in the last two weeks, but for those 80 minutes out on the field, the Rams were able to overcome their grief and play great soccer. They won two of their three games in the midst of their despair, and even their loss felt like a victory. Reeling from the death of popular Freshman Center health teacher Jan Egbert two weeks ago, the ninth-graders and others who had known her were downcast, but with the help of their teammates, they easily defeated OK Red rival Jenison 7-0 on April 23. Last week Wednesday, April 28, as the pain of that death was lifting, the Rams played a terrific game against Class B leader Spring Lake, holding them to a 1-1 tie until just three minutes remained before losing 2-1. Euphoric after that loss which felt like a win, the Rams went home happy, but their joy soon turned to mourning again when they learned of the unexpected death of senior Stephen May, a three-sport athlete and all-round good guy. When the girls took the field Friday night, April 30, against league rival Grand Haven, their distress was evident. They picked each other up, however, and beat the visiting Buccaneers 2-1 to put their league record at 3-0. “We were still trying to heal from Jan’s death and now this,” said Coach Amira Ponne, as she exited the field. “With all of the tragedy in the last two weeks, they’ve been through a lot, but it has made us stronger. The girls love each other so much. They are such a special group of girls. The seniors are so tight; they have played with each other forever. The freshmen cared so much to see their mentors upset. They stepped up support-wise.” Grand Haven has always been a conference rival for the Rams, but Friday night, they were the least of the team’s worries. The Rams went in wanting to win and get the game over with. Under the circumstances, they played quite well, dominating the shooting (15-7) and controlling the ball for much of the game. They passed well. They communicated, and they scored. “I think that part of it [success] is […]

Rockford girls soccer takes lessons learned from losses to beat Jenison

April 29, 2010 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER The clouds were gray and foreboding Friday night as the Rockford girls soccer team warmed up at Jenison High School, but the weather had nothing to do with the impending storm. The Rams were on a rampage, and the Wildcats were unprepared. After losing miserably 4-1 to their previous two opponents, non-league foes Petoskey and Caledonia, the Rams had come to win. “In the huddle with the starters before the game, I told them ‘I am sick of losing,’” said senior tri-captain Sam Decker. “I said, ‘I am dead serious. We are not going to lose this game.’” Decker was so confident of the impending win that she even told a Wildcats fan of her certainty. When asked by a Jenison student before the game if she was 98 percent sure Rockford would win, she told him that she was 100 percent sure. The Rams weren’t being cocky, however. They just knew it was time to prove that they were better than their previous two games. “I felt a big W coming on,” said Coach Amira Ponne. “I knew we were going to come out and shine. I hope we can keep doing this and find our groove.” Using the entire roster, the Rams outshot the host Wildcats 21-2 in the 7-0 shutout. The OK Red victory puts them at 2-0 in the league, 3-3 overall. Jenison is now 2-3-2. The Rams were up 2-0 at halftime and 4-0 seven minutes into the second half, allowing Ponne to sub liberally and try some different strategies. “It’s not like we were trying to run up the score with all of my starters,” said Ponne. “We had all of our non-starters in at the end. We are still trying to figure out what is the best team to put on the field. We tried some things against Jenison.” One of the strategies the Rams tried in the game was a flat-back four defense instead of the flat-back three they had been using previously. The flat-back four gave them more stability in the backfield, something they needed against Caledonia and Petoskey, but didn’t try because of their inexperience with it. Midway through the Jenison game, Ponne switched it back, however, because she realized they didn’t […]

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