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Hot Seat: Kennedi Koekkoek has been ‘lifeblood’ for North Muskegon girls soccer

Multi-talented and spunky defender saw her memorable career come to an emotional end in district semifinals.

NORTH MUSKEGON — Kennedi Koekkoek’s North Muskegon girls soccer career did not end in the way she would have liked, but there was never a question how much it meant to her.

It really showed when the team captain sat in the middle of the field at Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian Tuesday night after the final seconds ticked off the clock in North Muskegon’s tough 2-1 loss to the host squad in a Division 4 district semifinal matchup of top 10-ranked teams.

It was an emotional postgame for Koekkoek, who poured everything she had into the Norse program as a smaller but talented and spunky 5-foot-4 defender. The soccer field has been her “happy place” and Koekkoek has grown as a leader through the adversities that she’s encountered.

“Oh, gosh, Kennedi is the lifeblood of what we do here,” North Muskegon coach Caleb Parnin said. “You can tell when she’s absent or when she’s banged up or when any of these things change, our team changes.

“She went knee-to-knee with a kid in the first half (against NorthPointe Christian). For her standard, we lost her in that way, and she’s still gutting through it and playing really hard. Our team loses its dynamism when she can’t (go 100 percent).”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

Koekkoek was an integral part of North Muskegon’s back line, but she also was capable of providing some offensive punch with 10 goals and five assists this season.

In her four-year varsity soccer career, she was part of North Muskegon’s Division 4 state championship team in 2021 and earned All-West Michigan Conference, all-district, all-region, all-state, and academic all-state accolades during that time.

North Muskegon captured another WMC championship this season and was ranked No. 1 in Division 4 for a large part of the season. The Norse entered an extremely difficult district with the No. 3 state ranking, drawing a tough match against seventh-ranked NorthPointe Christian.

Top-ranked Western Michigan Christian, which North Muskegon defeated 2-1 in the season opener, would have been waiting in the district finals. The Norse finished the season with a 14-3-1 record and 9-0-1 mark in the WMC.

“She gave it her all, we all gave it our all,” North Muskegon senior defender Spencer Zizak said about Koekkoek. “I’m really proud of her. She’s a really big, important part of our team, and she worked her butt off.”

Koekkoek, the 18-year-old daughter of Matt Koekkoek and Anissa Blausey, walked with her 2024 North Muskegon graduating class last Friday at the Frauenthal Center in Muskegon. Her GPA hovered around 4.0 during time time at North Muskegon. She plans to attend Muskegon Community College for a year or two, then transfer to Michigan State University where she’ll study business or to become a child therapist.

Koekkoek said she loves to be around children. Being a nanny is one of her favorite things to do.

Koekkoek played volleyball and basketball as well previously, but she gave up those sports to focus exclusively on soccer.

Soccer’s always been her No. 1 sport. Off the field, she’s social and often smiling; on the field, she means business.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

“She’s amazing. She’s such an important asset to our back line. She’s always going up and making runs for us and always recovering fast. She’s a really good player,” Zizak said.

“She’s got a lot of attitude for sure,” Zizak added with a smile. “Very sassy back there, but that’s good because that’s what we need. Very funny. She has the best personality. Just very nice.”

Things have not always gone Koekkoek’s way on the soccer field, but she’s bounced back each time.

During her freshman season, she broke the fibula in her left leg before districts and did not get to play in the Norse’s run to the state championship.

In last year’s regional final, Koekkoek was issued a red card that North Muskegon coaches believe was administered in error. That meant she could not play in the next game, a state semifinal matchup against nemesis Kalamazoo Christian.

Similar to the state tournament run her freshman year, Koekkoek had to become more of a cheerleader and support for her teammates. Her absence on the field was noticeable, however.

“It’s one of those things, if you’re scouting a team like us, I don’t know you stop a girl like Kennedi,” Parnin said. “She’s got this tenacious ability to go, and yet she’s a great open-field defender with a huge left foot.

“She’s just so willing to do whatever. To be honest with you, we just make up positions for her half the time. We just want to let our athletes go into space and do their thing. She’s a tremendous player, so it’s a real shame, to her standard, she would have wanted more (in Tuesday’s loss against NorthPointe Christian).

Lots of tears fell for North Muskegon in those postgame moments Tuesday at NorthPointe Christian.

Parnin did his best to keep his emotions in check, but it hit him, especially when talking about Koekkoek during a postgame interview.

“She means the world to me as a person, as a teacher …,” a choked-up Parnin said, pausing to collect himself, ” … as an educator. I couldn’t say enough things about her, man.

“She’s got a lot of fight. Worked her way through some things like injuries. She’s also worked through some things like a phantom red card last year (in the regional finals) and having to be this cheerleader and growing as a leader and emerging. You’re so proud of all of them, but Kennedi’s special for us for sure.”

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

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

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Rjc

    May 31, 2024 at 5:04 pm

    Kennedi is the best!

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