Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark
MONTAGUE – When Adam Prince was asked how special of a player Maggie Evans is, Whitehall’s new girls soccer coach could only laugh in disbelief. He paused a few seconds to find the words.
Really, Prince didn’t need to say a word. Evans’ play Tuesday in Whitehall’s 4-0 victory over arch-rival, host Montague did all the talking.
The senior forward scored all four goals and had serious chances to tack on at least a couple others, as the Vikings picked up their first win of the season in the CatchMark SportsNet Competition of the Week. In three matches this season, Evans has scored all six goals for the Vikings (1-2 overall, 1-0 West Michigan Conference).
“You can’t describe it – she’s a one-in-a-million player. Like, you get one every once in a while,” said Prince, who is in his first season with the Vikings after enjoying a highly successful coaching tenure at Western Michigan Christian among other stops. “She reminds me a lot of my sons and the way I used to play where you can just outrun anybody and you can get to the goal.
“But just like her, there were times where I used to shoot the ball over. But that’s why, when she missed that one over (the crossbar) on a breakaway, I pulled her over and said, ‘Take a deep breath before you shoot it. You can put it in every corner you want.’ And then the last two, she actually looked like she stopped a minute and just (exhaled) and then put them in from the corner.”
Evans broke a scoreless tie near the midway point of the first half, when she came in from the left side and fired a low shot into the left corner of the goal.
Whitehall carried the 1-0 lead into the halftime break, then the Vikings wasted very little time tacking on another goal in the second half. Forty-five seconds into the second, Evans struck again to give her team a 2-0 lead.
Montague (0-1, 0-1) appeared to answer and get right back into the game with 26 minutes left, but the Wildcats’ goal was waved off by an off-sides call.
Evans and the Vikings put the game away with three goals in the final 6 ½ minutes. Junior Avery Thomas had two assists for Whitehall, while senior Ryleigh Mott and junior Ashley TenBrink recorded one helper apiece.
“My team, they set me up perfect. All I had to do was run and shoot. Without them, I don’t think it would have been that way,” Evans said.
Junior goalkeeper Brie Hamann notched the shutout for Whitehall. Montague freshman keeper Addison Pranger finished with seven saves as the Vikings put 11 shots on goal to compared to 10 for the Wildcats.
Prince noted that Hamann, a former Montague student, has not played soccer since her eighth-grade year. During her freshman year, spring sports in Michigan were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Hamann suffered an ACL injury.
Prince also highlighted the play of junior center back Allie Van Antwerp, who also hasn’t played soccer since her eighth-grade year.
Montague coach Kara Raeth said the loss came down to effort and attitude. She said her team was outplayed, Whitehall wanted it more and the Wildcats let the Vikings have it.
“Our defense just didn’t play very strong defense and let (Evans) get between the lines,” Raeth said. “We needed to work a little bit more preseason with the goalie on coming out (and challenging the goal-scorer) and she was a little hesitant.
“She’s a freshman, so I mean, it was a good indicator of what we needed to work on. It just always sucks when it’s Whitehall first game.”
It’s a lot to ask when a player of Evans’ ability is bearing down on the goal.
Crazy thing is, Prince believes that Evans has not even fully tapped into her potential yet.
“I mean, you saw her, she scored four goals today, but she could do so much more if she realized how much she has there,” he said. “Even though she is not going full tilt yet, the rest of the team is starting to come together. Our defense today was phenomenal.”
Last spring, Evans tallied 31 goals en route to becoming Whitehall’s all-time leading scorer with 77 in only two seasons of play. (She lost one full season in that COVID year.) She broke the Vikings’ career goals record previously established by her sister, Hanna Evans.
Evans, who also is a standout setter on Whitehall’s highly successful volleyball team, is undecided on which college she’ll attend or which sport she’ll play. She’s waiting to see what options arise.
Evans’ focus Tuesday was getting Whitehall in the win column after nonleague losses to Coopersville (6-1) and Fruitport (4-1) to kick off the season.
“We were predicted to lose this game, so that gave us some motivation so we really wanted to come out here and show everyone what we could do and I think we did that,” said Evans, alluding to an anonymous coaches preseason poll, which had Montague projected second and Whitehall fourth in the West Michigan Conference.
“With social media now, they saw the poll and they were not very pleased with (it) so they wanted to make a statement,” Prince said.
Watch a full replay of the game here, courtesy of the free livestream on the CatchMark SportsNet YouTube channel:
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