North Muskegon’s boys soccer team was put to the test all season against a tough schedule that featured about a dozen ranked opponents.
The Norsemen were battle-tested and proved ready for whatever they were going to face. In Thursday night’s Division 4 regional final at Comstock Park, it wasn’t meant to be.
Michigan State University commit Jonathan Stout’s goal on a free kick with 3:47 remaining broke a scoreless tie and sixth-ranked Wyoming Potter’s House made it stand in a 1-0 victory.
Potter’s House (22-3-1) advances to next Wednesday’s 6 p.m. state semifinals at Pat Patterson Complex in Kentwood, where the Pumas face Holland Black River (13-8-1). Black River knocked off top-ranked Hartford, 3-2.
North Muskegon, which toppled eighth-ranked McBain Northern Michigan Christian, 1-0, in Tuesday’s regional semifinals, finishes with an 11-12-2 record.
“In the second half, we had two real (chances). One just went just like a foot wide of the post and one of them, just a rocket shot by Hunter (Koekkoek) on a free kick, and it squirted through and the goalie made a last-second diving save to put it out of bounds. If that goes in, probably changes everything,” North Muskegon coach Jeremy Tjapkes said about the turning-point moment with about 15 minutes remaining.
Thursday’s game, which was moved from Rotary Club Field in Cadillac where the teams played two days earlier, was a rematch of a Potter’s House’s 2-1 season-opening win over North Muskegon.
This was the furthest the Norsemen have advanced since finishing state runner-up in 2005.
Potter’s House finished with a 6-5 edge in shots on goal. Senior Seth Hoeksema earned the shutout for the Pumas, while sophomore Leighton Hunt also was strong in net for the Norse.
Tjapkes said that Koekkoek, a senior defender, did as good a job as anybody he’d seen in matching Stout. But with time winding down in a scoreless match, Stout made a play.
Tjapkes said Stout was about 20 yards out when he tried to split a pair of North Muskegon defenders. Contact was made and Stout knocked to the ground. He was awarded a free kick and made the most of it.
“You know, you can’t defend a player on a free kick, really. Great players make plays, and he’s a great player and he hit a beautiful shot,” Tjapkes said. “And there they are, (down) 1-0, and we have just over three minutes to figure it out.
“They then parked the bus (dropped all their players back on defense). They brought everybody back to hold us off and there it is.”
North Muskegon loses 10 seniors from this season’s team. Tjapkes knows he’ll have a lot of new faces in the starting lineup next fall.
Losing a large, hard-working group of seniors is difficult for Tjapkes.
“It was tough to see them lose that game,” he said. “You know, we really had our hopes and our sights set on – with our tough schedule – preparing us for the postseason and we were really hoping we were going to pull through this game and make it to the semifinals. But, you know, it wasn’t in the hand we were dealt tonight.”
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