GRANDVILLE – Grandville Calvin Christian High is housed in an unassuming building located at 3750 Ivanrest Avenue SW.
Inside the high school halls 350 students roam the building. Next door is the seventh- and eighth-grade building, which is home to another 140 students
Inside the high school building lurks a superpower: the girls’ soccer team.
The last three years they’ve defeated Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes/Clarkston Everest in the Division 4 championship game: 6-0, 2-1 and 2-1.
The Squires trailed, 1-0, at the half in the last two finals, rallying to win in the second half.
“To be honest we were very fortunate to win last year,” senior goalkeeper Allison Keizer said. “I had to stop a lot of shots in the second half. Our defense was awesome, but they played really, really well. They wanted revenge. You could see it in their eyes.”
The Squires sympathized with Waterford being runner-ups the last three years. But as Keizer proudly wore her three-peat T-shirt around the school on a rainy, windy Monday afternoon, anything less than a fourth state title would be a disappointment. They don’t want to be on the losing end.
“I’ve been there,” Keizer said. “My club team (Michigan Fire) made it to the State Cup, which is the championship game, and we lost to the team that was favored to win. It was devastating. They walked around like ‘yeah, we knew we were going to win.’ So I knew that other feeling.”
Four seniors were on varsity when the team captured the first title. Defender Morgan Buursma played the entire season as a freshman and has had a spectacular career. Midfielder Emily VanVliet was pulled up her freshman year as were midfielder Hilary Curry and Keizer, who watched from the sidelines as a sophomore after tearing her ACL.
Keizer gave up basketball after her injury, but the other three continued playing. VanVliet, long and lanky, will play basketball at Calvin College. Buursma and Curry plan to play soccer at Hope College while Keizer is set to attend Spring Arbor.
“Morgan is a four-year varsity player,” coach Tim TerHaar said. “Those four are all highly capable players, but she was the one, as a freshman, that made our varsity. We had a lot of seniors that year in 2012 and we had a need for defenders. Morgan has been our starting central defender for all four years.”
Buursma has been a first-team all-state performer for two years and would be the only Squire to earn that honor three times if she does it in 2015.
“I started travel soccer in the second grade. I’ve been playing with girls from Calvin since then, which I think has helped our program a lot,” she said.
Because of her ability, the team uses just three defenders. She wins balls and governs space, said TerHaar. She scored two goals in the second half to beat 2014 Division 2 semifinalist Grand Rapids Christian, 2-1, last week.
VanVliet’s versatility has been a boon to the soccer and basketball programs.
“Emily has fulfilled a lot of different roles throughout her four years,” TerHaar said. “She’s been everything from an outside mid who had given us the ability to be dangerous out wide. She’s probably the best player that we have that serves consistent balls.”
Playing the outside, VanVliet has racked up a ton of assists.
“Basketball helps soccer and soccer helps basketball,” she said. “Basketball is my first love. I love playing soccer and being part of the team. I look forward to playing basketball in college.”
A shy freshman has turned into a confident senior.
“I was real quiet and shy my freshman year,” VanVliet said. “I wrote an essay about the experience and how I’ve grown.”
Curry is a bundle of energy that makes up for her small stature by playing 80 minutes of tireless soccer in the big games.
“Hilary is a dynamic player up top,” TerHaar said. “If you see her she’s tiny, but she has a work rate that is unrivaled. Even in battle girls that are much bigger than her she’s able to fight off bigger players and help us keep the ball.”
Keizer is the security blanket.
“I can see things happening in front of me, but because I’m the goalie they don’t always listen,” she joked.
Unlike VanVliet, her first love is soccer and she doesn’t mind it consuming her life. Social activities may have suffered during her high school career, but playing soccer was worth the sacrifice, hours of training and spending countless hours with her teammates.
“She came back and won a state title for us last year,” TerHaar said. “She was absolutely huge for us in the final 10 minutes in our state championship game against Waterford Our Lady of the Lakes/Clarkston Everest. She made some great saves late as they were pressing for the equalizer. She’s somebody that allows us to go out and play confidently because we know we have a keeper behind us that is able to make saves.”
They already have a legacy: Three banners hang in the high school gym. The 2012 and 2014 trophies are in one case while the 2013 hardware is in a different case with the ball from the championship game.
TerHaar is quick to point out that when the program was moved down to Division 4 it escaped the district clutches of powerful Hudsonville Unity Christian, which has won eight of the previous 10 Division 3 titles, and Grand Rapids South Christian, which captured the Division 3 title in 2013.
“Unity Christian is probably good enough to win Division 2,” TerHaar said. “We’ve had a good program for the last six or seven years. We’ve tried to tell the girls that success isn’t defined by just winning the trophy at the end of the year.”
With a 5-1 record the team is still in flux. Four seniors who dominated the team a year ago are now gone.
“We’re not as deep as we were a year ago,” Curry said. “We’re still figuring some things out. It’s (championships) getting closer each time. I’ve loved playing soccer my entire life. It’s just great to be a part of. It’s a lot of pressure. Everybody is like ‘you’re going to do it again this year, senior year?’ It’s not easy. Everybody assumes that we can get there, but it takes a lot of work.”
There are no freshmen on the team, but seven seniors. Expectations, merited or not, are high. Some of the varsity players even go to the junior high games to scout future talent.
They want the titles to continue.
“People just assume that we’re going to win a fourth,” VanVliet said. “They don’t realize how hard it is. Winning one is difficult, but being able to win three has been amazing, but it’ll be a disappointment if we don’t win a fourth.”
Keizer said a runner-up banner from 2012 would’ve sufficed at the time, “because getting there was such a thrill for us,” but now the stakes are so much higher.
“If you look at our tournament runs, we won a lot of one-goal games,” TerHaar said. “We’re not the biggest or the fastest or the strongest team. We’re a team that’s predicated on keeping the ball and trying to break down other teams.”
Will it happen a fourth time?
“That’s the goal,” Curry said.
Contact Perry A. Farrell: 313-222-2555 or firstname.lastname@example.org.