Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
WHITEHALL – Being one of the smaller schools in the West Michigan Conference has not stopped North Muskegon’s girls soccer program from dominating the league in recent seasons.
Similarly, senior Emily Judd is not going to let her stature dictate her place on the field and role on the Norse squad.
Thursday night, the 4-foot-11 team captain helped keep prolific Whitehall scorer Maggie Evans in check as visiting North Muskegon earned a 2-0 victory in the CatchMark SportsNet Competition of the Week.
“I’m 4-foot-11-ish … I’ve been this height since eighth grade, but that has been OK other than back pain. But I haven’t gotten any growth pain, so that’s good,” Judd quipped.
North Muskegon second-year coach Caleb Parnin believes his team is exhibiting growth. Last season, the Norse rolled to the Division 4 state championship – first in school history – and a 20-1-1 record. The program lost several key players to graduation, especially in the goal-scoring department, so this year’s squad has been more defensive-minded.
North Muskegon suffered losses to 2021 Division 2 state finalist Spring Lake (2-0) and Harbor Springs (2-1) last Friday and Saturday, respectively. The Norse (6-2 overall, 3-0 WMC) have bounced back with a pair of league wins this week, including a 2-1 squeaker over Montague Tuesday.
“I’m just really proud of the back line for stepping up. We went deep into our bench today and it was really fun to watch these girls succeed and do a job and pay attention to, ‘Hey, this is a girl we’ve got to mark, this is how we’re going to do it,’” Parnin said in alluding to Evans, who tallied nine goals in Whitehall’s first five games.
“I just felt like we did a really good job back there, highlighted by this young lady right here, Emily Judd. That was awesome.”
North Muskegon converted against Whitehall (2-4, 2-1) on a pair of well-executed shots.
Junior Natalie Pannucci got the Norse on the board with 23:18 left in the first half when she lobbed a shot just inside the 18-yard box over leaping Vikings junior goalkeeper Brie Hamann into the far corner of the net. Sophomore Katie Kinahan gave her team a 2-0 lead with 17:26 remaining in the contest when she knuckled a shot from just outside the 18 into the corner of the goal.
Sophomore Emma Lamiman notched the shutout for North Muskegon.
“Brie next year is probably going to be one of the top keepers in the area. This is the first two goals she’s given up in conference – one was a floater that just ended up in the back corner and the other one was a perfect shot from Kinahan from about 18 out that just knuckled into the corner. She did everything she could back there,” said Adam Prince, who is in his first season as Whitehall’s coach.
“And then the defense played, for what we were going through, I think they played exceptionally well for not having any subs. … On top of the fact we lost Ryleigh (Mott), we were playing more short because we’ve got so many girls that have got little tweaks and stuff.”
Mott, a senior captain and one of the Vikings’ top offensive threats, who pairs well with Evans, suffered an apparent knee injury early in the game and was carted off the field.
Prince estimated that North Muskegon controlled play for about 70 to 75 percent of the contest but credited his players for continuing to battle through the adversity.
Parnin could not give enough credit to Judd, who puts her gymnastics background to good use. She exhibits strength with her low center of gravity and flexibility in the way she can play various positions.
Judd has played forward and midfield as well, but recently the Norse have needed her to focus on defense to help slow the opposition’s attack.
“I’ve been a gymnast my whole life, so I’ve got very good stability and I’ve also powerlifted so I have very good strength,” Judd said. “It probably has to do with my height, too. I feel like I’m a very stable person, especially with my center of gravity, I do very good at being on my feet and being strong.”
Parnin is impressed with the fact that Judd does not bat an eye when she’s asked to flip-flop positions.
Judd said she’ll work hard regardless where Parnin puts her on the field.
“What’s awesome about Emily, she started as a forward, then she plays midfield for us, she plays defense. We’re just like, ‘Switch here, switch here, switch here,’ (and she says) ‘OK.’ And she’s just bouncing around and she does a great job being flexible and understands the game well,” Parnin said.
“She’s just getting started here as a player, too. I think there’s another level with her with stuff we want to see out of her and the rest of the defense, too.”
Judd said she has a few different options beyond high school, but that she doesn’t really if she plays soccer in college or not. She just wants to “be happy and help others in some way.”
This is Judd’s third season on North Muskegon’s varsity soccer team, not counting the 2020 campaign that was wiped out because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Judd said she appreciates the culture Parnin has instilled in the program of a loving, cohesive team unit. She also understands that the only way the Norse will continue to improve is challenging themselves.
“Playing teams that are divisions ahead of us with many more girls to choose from, it’s not really intimidating because we know our strength and we know that every game we just have to go out our hardest like we always do, like we know we can,” Judd said, referring to Spring Lake.
“And, yeah, it can be tough sometimes playing against big girls, playing against bigger schools, but I love playing against hard competition and I know our girls do, too, because you’re not going to learn anything winning 8-0 every single game.”
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