A panel consisting of CatchMark SportsNet’s Scott DeCamp and Durga Insurance Group’s Jordan and Justin Durga selected three finalists from each 2023 fall sport for the West Michigan Conference Player of the Year awards.
It was up to readers to determine the Players of the Year, brought to you by title sponsor Durga Insurance Group. For nearly two weeks, readers have weighed in through fan polls and amassed nearly 45,000 total votes.
Now the results are final.
The CatchMark SportsNet West Michigan Conference Players of the Year for 2023 fall sports have been determined:
- Manistee’s Nick Hornkohl in football
- Ludington’s Maddy Vaara in volleyball
- Ludington’s Parker Wendt in boys soccer
- Ludington’s Annabelle Lowman in girls cross country
- Fremont’s Sean Pettis in boys cross country
- Ludington’s Emma McKinley in girls golf
- Ludington’s Robby Killips in boys tennis
The polls opened at 8 a.m. Nov. 13, and closed at 8 a.m. today (Nov. 24). Readers were allowed to vote once per hour in each poll.
CatchMark SportsNet has called an audible on the Player of the Year banquet. Rather than having a banquet each season, we’re having one bigger event at the end of the school year. More details to come on that, but all Player of the Year finalists and their guests will be invited.
Trophies and laminated certificates will be awarded during the ceremony, which will be livestreamed on the CatchMark SportsNet YouTube channel. A trophy that stays in our CatchMark office in Whitehall will have the names of all Players of the Year engraved on it.
Below are details about each Player of the Year award winner, along with how voting turned out in each sport.
FOOTBALL: Nick Hornkohl, Manistee
The 6-foot, 175-pound senior was a two-way standout for the Mariners, who tied for second in the WMC Lakes Division, won a Division 6 playoff opener, and finished with an 8-3 overall record. … Hornkohl split carries in Manistee’s wing-T offense, but he finished with 126 rushing attempts for 1,032 yards (8.2 per carry) and 12 touchdowns. He also scored 12 two-point conversions. … He was a big hitter from his free safety spot, finishing with 76 tackles (47 solo) with three interceptions returned for a total of 80 yards, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
VOLLEYBALL: Maddy Vaara, Ludington
The 6-foot outside hitter was a six-rotation player and a Ferris State University signee. … Vaara was voted the CatchMark SportsNet WMC Player of the Year in 2022. … She was a Division 2 first-team all-state selection this season and second-team all-state honoree last year. … Ludington captured a second straight WMC Lakes Division title, its first district championship since 2004, and first regional crown since 1997. … The Orioles lost a five-setter in the quarterfinals to eventual state runner-up Grand Rapids West Catholic. … Entering the regional finals, Vaara totaled 617 kills (.335 hitting percentage), 335 digss, 49 blocks, 35 aces, and 43 assists. … Ludington finished the season with a 42-11-2 overall record.
BOYS SOCCER: Parker Wendt, Ludington
The senior forward posted another big season for the Orioles. He tallied 20 goals and four assists. In his four-year varsity career, he totaled 70 goals and 28 assists. … Wendt was all-conference and all-district four times each. He was all-region this season and last season. He received Division 2 third-team all-state last year and honorable mention all-state this season. … Ludington finished with a 16-6-0 overall record this season. The Orioles were second in the WMC behind Fremont, the lone team in the league to defeat the Packers.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY: Annabelle Lowman, Ludington
The Orioles freshman continued to improve throughout the season, culminating with a 14th-place finish for all-state at the MHSAA Division 2 state finals. She shattered her personal-record with a time of 18:26.2. She helped Ludington finish seventh as a team at the state finals. … Lowman placed second at the regional with a time of 19:08.8 as the Orioles took first place as a team. … She placed second at the Ludington Invite and third at the Leanna Wolf Geers Invitational. … Ludington ran away with the WMC Lakes Division title.
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY: Sean Pettis, Fremont
The Packers senior placed 13th at the MHSAA Division 2 state finals for all-state honors in a time of 15:34.9. … He established a personal-record time of 15:14.1 en route to a first-place finish at the Cougar Falcon Invite. … Pettis took first place in nine events this season, including the Hill and Bale Invitational, Cougar Falcon Invite, WMC Lakes Division portion of the conference’s Mega Meet, and the Division 2 regional at Chippewa Hills. … He also was all-state as a junior with a 29th-place finish at the Division 2 state finals.
GIRLS GOLF: Emma McKinley, Ludington
The Orioles senior earned Division 3 first-team all-state honors for a second straight season. She was also a top-10 finisher in the MHSAA Division 3 state finals as a junior (tied for ninth) and senior (tied for sixth). She posted rounds of 81 and 77 at the state finals this year. … McKinley averaged 36 in nine-hole events this season and 76 in 18-hole rounds. … She was the CatchMark SportsNet WMC Player of the Year in 2022. … McKinley is a four-time conference medalist and a two-time regional medalist. … Ludington placed 10th as a team at the state finals this season.
BOYS TENNIS: Robby Killips, Ludington
The Orioles senior held down the No. 1 singles spot for a talented team, which placed fifth at the MHSAA Division 4 state finals. … He posted a 25-11 record this season, going 4-0 in the Coastal Conference and winning the league title. He finished as regional runner-up. … Killips was the CatchMark SportsNet WMC Player of the Year last fall and he’s all-state honorable mention this season. … At the state finals, he lost to the eventual state runner-up in the second round. … Killips was part of a group of players who finished their careers with three conference titles, three regional runner-up finishes, and three straight trips to the state finals.
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