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North Muskegon girls soccer team enjoys sweet rewards of shootout win in regional final

Norse show resilience vs. Harbor Springs, then get their just dessert on happy bus ride home.

Photos courtesy of Rhonda Kinahan Photography

North Muskegon’s girls soccer team saved its season Thursday night, then the Norse managed to save coach Caleb Parnin a brownie on the happy bus ride home from Cadillac.

North Muskegon rallied twice in regulation, then after two scoreless 10-minute overtime periods, the defending state champion Norse beat Harbor Springs in a shootout during a Division 4 regional final at Rotary Club Field in Cadillac. The teams were tied at 2 after 100 minutes of play, then the Norse edged the Rams in penalty kicks, 4-2.

North Muskegon (16-3-1) advances to next Tuesday’s 7 p.m. state semifinal at Comstock Park, where the Norse will face the winner of tonight’s regional final between familiar foe Kalamazoo Christian and St. Joseph Our Lady of the Lake.

After Parnin caught his breath from a roller-coaster match against Harbor Springs (14-8-1), he thoroughly enjoyed the ride home.

North Muskegon defeated Harbor Springs in a shootout in a Division 4 girls regional soccer final Thursday, June 9, 2022, at Rotary Club Field in Cadillac, Mich. (Courtesy of Rhonda Kinahan Photography)

“Oh, man. I’m eating this chocolate brownie caramel thing that is absolute poison for me,” Parnin said in a phone interview with CatchMark SportsNet. “(Sophomore keeper) Emma Lamiman’s grandmother (made the brownies). Whatever she feeds that kid, I’m going to have more of them. Keep the dessert coming.”

“We all had our first go-around (with the brownies) before he got some,” junior Natalie Pannucci said with a laugh, referring to her coach.

After falling to Harbor Springs, 2-1 at home on April 16, North Muskegon got the last laugh Thursday. The Norse avenged the earlier defeat and fought to see another day, but it wasn’t easy.

Harbor Springs tallied about 10 minutes into the first half to break a scoreless tie. With roughly 15 minutes remaining in the half, Pannucci knotted it up on an assist by junior Jaley Schultz.

Harbor Springs went back on top about 10 minutes into the second half, then North Muskegon tied it with approximately nine minutes left from an unlikely source. Sophomore Emilia Reid, who recently was elevated from the junior varsity squad, came though with the equalizer on a feed by junior Sam Johnson.

“It was crazy,” Reid said about scoring the tying goal, when Johnson crossed the ball into the center of the field and Reid made the most of the chance.

“I was a little nervous, but I felt pretty good.”

North Muskegon defeated Harbor Springs in a shootout in a Division 4 girls regional soccer final Thursday, June 9, 2022, at Rotary Club Field in Cadillac, Mich. (Courtesy of Rhonda Kinahan Photography)

In MHSAA tournament soccer, a tied match goes to two 10-minute overtime periods. If the game remains tied after the OTs, then the outcome is decided by penalty kicks.

North Muskegon converted on its first four kicks and did not need its fifth. Lamiman stopped Harbor Springs’ first PK attempt, while the Rams’ second try hit the crossbar. Johnson, senior Molly Stewart, Schultz and senior Emily Judd made PKs for the Norse, in that order.

“I knew we could take it to ’em and beat ’em. I knew that even if we didn’t score in the last 10 minutes, we were going to beat them in PKs,” Lamiman said. “That shot that hit the crossbar, I knew we were going to win it.”

Lamiman stepped up in a big way in Tuesday’s 2-0 regional semifinal victory over a feisty Grand Rapids Covenant Christian opponent. That was her 13th shutout of the season and third in as many state tournament matches.

Harbor Springs put Lamiman and the Norse to the test, but the champs responded. Lamiman made nine saves as North Muskegon outshot Harbor Springs, 21-11.

North Muskegon defeated Harbor Springs in a shootout in a Division 4 girls regional soccer final Thursday, June 9, 2022, at Rotary Club Field in Cadillac, Mich. (Courtesy of Rhonda Kinahan Photography)

“I mean, it felt really good (to deliver) and I know that they have my back every step of the way,” Lamiman said about her teammates. “But I also didn’t want those two games to be the last for the seniors, so I kind of knew that I had to step up.”

Parnin said that he and North Muskegon’s coaches have spent more time this season on mental skills training. One of the lessons has been focused on the Norse taking deep breaths and breathing before shooting the ball.

When Thursday’s outcome was going to be decided by PKs, Parnin had full confidence in his team. He said he could sense that the moment wasn’t too big for the Norse.

“I think this week has shown our resilience, you know. Just being challenged and bouncing back,” he said. “We came from behind twice today. To be honest, that’s not my preferred method to teach resilience but, gosh, what an opportunity to learn from it, right? They just kept bouncing back. I’m so proud of them.”

This regional title marks the fourth straight for North Muskegon, taking out the 2020 season that was canceled because of COVID-19.

It will be the fourth consecutive semifinals appearance at Comstock Park, where the Norse lost heartbreakers to Kalamazoo Christian in 2018 and 2019 before they defeated Grandville Calvin Christian last spring.

Last season, North Muskegon outscored six state tournament opponents by a combined 36-1 tally and finished with a 21-1-1 record. The group this season is playing tighter games, but still finding a way to get it done.

“Soccer is usually closer games like this, right? Last year was the anomaly. This is how most regional championships are fought,” Parnin said. “ … We were beat today but lived to fight another day. Goodness, I think all my parents and coaches were absolutely panicked and the girls just didn’t seem that way. They seemed really dialed in, ready and every time Harbor Springs scored, we’d bounce back and it felt within our control somehow even though we weren’t winning. It’s hard to explain.”

Added Pannucci: “Yeah, we definitely are (getting used to the tight games). I think we all know that we have to keep fighting. Even if we are down a little bit, we can always come back.”

North Muskegon defeated Harbor Springs in a shootout in a Division 4 girls regional soccer final Thursday, June 9, 2022, at Rotary Club Field in Cadillac, Mich. (Courtesy of Rhonda Kinahan Photography)

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

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