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Allie Van Antwerp inspires Whitehall soccer team in overcoming adversities

Vikings senior captain and three-sport athlete kept battling after suffering significant injuries to both knees.

WHITEHALL – Nothing may make Allie Van Antwerp happier than adding a girls district soccer championship trophy to the case at Whitehall High School.

That’s a tangible goal for the Vikings’ senior center defender and center midfielder.

Really, she’s already won. Van Antwerp has overcome the adversity of not one but two serious knee injuries in her high school athletics career. Those hardships have shaped her as a person and given her a more mature view on the real value of high school sports and the fleeting time in a person’s life to experience them.

“It has changed my perspective and outlook on life. It strengthened my relationships with my family and friends. It made me overcome adversity, intensified my character and confidence. It made me realize my priorities in life and that sports don’t define who I am (as she used to think),” Van Antwerp said.

“I would absolutely love a trophy in the case, but realistically a positively memorable season with the team, especially with the other seniors on the team, would be ideal. I’m very grateful for my teammates as we support each other on and off the field, so however far we get, as long as we have fun, is the goal.”

This season has been up-and-down for Whitehall, which finished 4-5-1 in the West Michigan Conference and carries a 6-7-1 overall record into this week’s Division 3 district opener at Manistee against Grant. The Vikings and Tigers will tangle at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday (May 22).

The winner of the Whitehall/Grant match faces a talented Fremont squad in the May 29 district semifinals.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Regardless of the district outcome, Van Antwerp will graduate from Whitehall as a champion. Consider the following about the 18-year-old daughter of Bryan and Rebecca Van Antwerp:

  • She carries a 4.063 GPA;
  • She competed in three sports as a senior – golf, basketball, and soccer;
  • She was named a team captain in soccer;
  • She accomplished these things after suffering significant injuries to both knees.

Van Antwerp suffered the first injury, a torn ACL in her right knee, during the middle of her freshman year. Recovery lasted through the middle of her sophomore year.

She suffered the second injury, including tears of her ACL, MCL, and both menisci in her left knee as well as two bone fractures, during the first basketball game of her junior season. Recovery lasted through the start of her senior year.

The pain is still there, but Van Antwerp continues to push through it.

CatchMark file photos

“Allie definitely has a fighter’s mentality. If she falls down, she will do whatever (it takes) to get back up and get back in the fight,” Whitehall soccer coach Adam Prince said.

“We also went through rehab together for knee surgeries, so we pushed each other to get back going ASAP. This year with my neck surgery, she is always the one saying, ‘Coach, are you cleared to do that?’ (Prince responds) ‘Yes, Allie, I am!’”

According to Prince, Van Antwerp has the perfect mindset as a teammate and captain. She will do whatever it takes to get the best out of everyone, he said.

One of the turning points of Whitehall’s season, Prince said, is when he let Van Antwerp finish a halftime talk alone with her teammates. Now, the Vikings have at least three minutes before a game and at halftime called, “Allie leadership talks,” where no coaches are present. It’s just Van Antwerp getting her teammates going.

One of Prince’s in-game traditions is chewing on gummy bears. Once in a while, he may even share them.

“It’s been a pleasure and honor to coach Allie, and although she might sometimes doubt her physical abilities, as long as she can get a red gummy bear, she doesn’t cry that much,” Prince quipped.

Van Antwerp said that soccer has always been her favorite sport because she’s played it since she was little, including a big portion with the White Lake Breakers travel squad. She said the Breakers had a strong bond, including with the late Ava Vanderstelt, and everybody grew closer after her passing.

Graduation is next week for Van Antwerp and her classmates. She plans to attend Muskegon Community College for one more year to complete her early college program and earn her associate’s degree. After that, she intends on transferring to Michigan State University where she’ll study business, ultimately working in finance and management.

Van Antwerp noted that Whitehall basketball coaches Brian Milliron and Emily MacArthur have been big inspirations for her. She said they’ve always been supportive and encouraging, they gave the best advice, and that they’ve taught her so many valuable lessons. She feels eternally grateful to them.

Playing a full senior year of sports has been Van Antwerp’s proudest achievement.

“I had yet to complete a full year of sports in the past because of my injuries,” she said. “I had a lot of people that doubted me and my decisions, and it was a lot of work. People asked me all the time, ‘Why?’ I wanted to overcome the injuries and play – there is a limited time to play high school sports.

“I’ve been through a lot, but ultimately I’m proud of myself for the time and effort I put into getting back on the court or field.”

Photo by Courtney Jimison | CatchMark

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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