Jackie Holland-Decker

Rockford varsity girls soccer team begins season with bang

April 1, 2010 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER Take notice, soccer fans and foes alike. The new and improved Rockford girls soccer team will be a force with which to be reckoned this year. The girls proved that Friday night, March 26, with a 3-1 victory over Forest Hills Eastern in the home opener at Rams Stadium. Second-year coach Amira Ponne couldn’t have been prouder. “We really showed our strength,” she said. “This was a big win. Last year we tied 1-1. This year we have a clear 3-1 victory. Before the game I looked at their roster and saw that they have a lot of the same girls from last year. They don’t have a lot of young girls on their team. Our team has changed a lot. We really showed our strength with some of our freshmen. We showed them our new format.” That new format, which includes just nine returners and four starters on the 23-member team, has lots of speed and skill. Whereas the Rams of the past used more brute strength and size to get the job done, this team has finesse and scoring ability. For the first time in four years, that lineup also includes a new goalie. The Rams relied on Kristin Darby to keep the ball out of the net throughout her high school career, but when she graduated last spring, Ponne was left pondering what to do. The solution? She found not one, but two capable underclassmen to take the helm. Starting for the Rams Friday night was sophomore Makaela Harrell, who gave up just one goal in the first half. Finishing for the Rams was junior Karlee Flegel, who came in with six minutes left to play, but also saw a lot of playing time in preseason scrimmages Saturday and the previous weekend. The Rams got off to a convincing start just eight minutes into the game when freshman speedster Katie Hartnett took advantage of an open net. As senior Kate Huyser drove up the middle, Forest Hills Eastern (FHE) goalkeeper Michelle Marcus came out to stop her. Huyser’s ball went around Marcus, and Hartnett was in the right place at the right time to kick it in from close proximity. “Katie Hartnett is a scrapper. She was relentless at […]

Rockford girls soccer ousted by Portage Central in regional opener

June 11, 2009 // 0 Comments

Captain Kayla Knoll (#18) outplays her Mustang opponent. Photo by BRET DOUD by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER In the Bible, the little shepherd boy David slays the mighty Goliath with nothing but a slingshot and a heap of faith. The Rockford girls soccer team had the faith, but their skills were no match for Portage Central, the top-ranked team in Division I. The Mustangs ended the Rams’ tournament run June 2 with a decisive 4-1 victory in the regional opener at East Kentwood. “They are the best high school team I have ever seen,” said Rockford Coach Amria Ponne. “They could beat many small college teams. I can take a loss to a team that is that great.” The Rams were well-prepared for the Mustangs and knew their weaknesses. While watching game film from Portage Central’s district win, a handful of the Rams evaluated what they needed to do to win. What they didn’t know was that the Mustang’s speed, coupled with their sharp passes and great ball-handling, would be too much to overcome. The Mustangs struck early on their way to victory. Sophomore Charlie Socia scored the first of her four goals just six-and-a-half minutes into the game. Rockford’s Samantha Decker headed the cross from Portage Central’s Mara Bennett away from the goal, but Socia got the rebound, snuck in behind the defense, took advantage of the chaos in front of the net, and shot it in from close proximity. Rockford goalie Kristin Darby never had a chance. That became the story throughout the game: textbook perfect crosses or short passes in front of the net with Socia always taking advantage of frenzied activity in the box to finish. Four different Mustangs assisted on her goals. “They are very fast and great ball handlers,” said Ponne. “They play beautifully together. They always know where each other is, especially 23 [Socia] and 25 [Paige Wester]. “They are pretty tough to stop, and I would say impossible to shut out. No matter how great our defense is, No. 23 or 25 is going to score. When they have a chance to score and you think ‘this should go in,’ it’s in.” The Rams scored their lone goal 1:28 into the second half. Decker received the pass from Lyndsey […]

Rivals clash, Grand Haven beats Rockford girls soccer

May 7, 2009 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER The rivalry between the Rockford girls soccer team and Grand Haven goes back a long way, so every time the two teams meet, a battle ensues.  Three years ago, the Rams beat the Buccaneers for the district title. Two years ago, the Bucs turned the tables in the same game. Last year, Rockford beat Grand Haven in the district semifinal, so Friday night’s OK Red conference match-up on the Bucs’ home turf was expected to be a battle. The fans got their money’s worth.  The evenly matched teams provided a night of entertainment, but the hosts got the upper hand, beating visiting Rockford 2-1 in a conference thriller. “A lot of us who have been on the team a couple of years tried to instill in people’s minds that this was a big game,” said Rockford co-captain Rachel Doud, a four-year varsity member. “It is a really big game for both of us. It always feels good to walk away with a win. We played our hearts out. It was a tough loss, but it was nice to see us come together and play as a team.”   Although each squad had their opportunities in the first half, a defensive battle left the teams scoreless. The Rams’ first major chance came nine minutes into the game. Doud, driving on the outside, passed the ball into sophomore center midfielder Sydney Benda, who passed it on to Graves. Graves maneuvered past the Bucs’ formidable defense, but her shot on goal was kicked away by Grand Haven goalkeeper Katie Malnight. The Bucs peppered Rockford keeper Kristin Darby with three shots in a two-minute stretch late in the first half, but the four-year starter answered the call, leaving the scoreboard empty after 40 minutes of play.   The Rams came out on fire in the second half, but the Bucs got the first goal when sophomore Alina Weykamp wound her way past the Rockford defense and sent the ball flying over Darby’s reach seven-and-a-half minutes into the half. Jenna Lysne put the visitors on the scoreboard three minutes later when she took a sweet pass from Britanni Pierce 20 yards out and sent it in low toward the left side of the net. The tie didn’t […]

Competitive Cheer Teams Battle Head-to-Head in OK Red

February 26, 2009 // 0 Comments

by JACKIE HOLLAND-DECKER The slogan emblazoned on the back of the competitive cheer t-shirts couldn’t have been more appropriate. The message “Head to Head in the OK Red” clearly set the stage for an all-out battle in both the OK Red post-conference cheer finals and the Division I district championships held last week at Rockford High School. Although sold at only the conference competition on Wednesday, the t-shirts’ implication rang true for the district competition as well. Even though 14 teams competed Saturday for the chance to move on to the regional at Brighton, everyone knew that the top four spots, as well as the next two, would be secured by teams from the OK Red. With five of the top 10-ranked teams in Division I coming from the conference, no one can argue that the Red is the most competitive league in the state. In the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s (MHSAA) most recent postings, East Kentwood was ranked second behind Rochester, and West Ottawa was ranked third, followed by Grandville (fourth), Jenison (eighth), and Rockford (10th). In addition, Grandville has won the state title four times since 1997 and placed in the runner-up spot five times. West Ottawa has been runner-up twice, and East Kentwood has been second once. In both the conference and district competitions, those three, along with the host Rams, Jenison and Hudsonville, fought for the top spots. For Rockford coach Kathy Jo Resseguie – whose Rams finished third at the post-conference meet and fourth at districts – placing in the top four was significant. “[On Wednesday], I was hoping to move up from fourth at the pre-conference ” she said. “Rockford has kind of settled into that fourth-place spot. It gave us a confidence booster going into the weekend to finish third. That was awesome! To finish fourth at districts is amazing. I don’t think the girls realize how good fourth in this area is. This area sets the bar for everybody. To finish second, third, fourth, fifth or sixth in this area is unbelievable.” The district competitions are new. In previous years, teams competed in regional competitions with only two teams advancing to the state meet. With four of the five regions contested on the east side of […]

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