by Ben Murphy
Last fall was quite the memorable one for the McBain Northern Michigan Christian boys soccer team. The Comets went 19-2-1 on the year, winning the Northern Michigan Soccer League and claiming a district championship along the way.
“My early thoughts are that we have much of the same potential as last year for overall team success,” head coach Taylor Mulder said. “We do have a lot of holes to fill including one all-state defensive player and three all-state offensive players, but I believe we have the people to fill all of them very well. The issue we will see this year is a shallow bench and a smaller team physically. After our starting 11, we fall off quickly on experience and ability. There are those who could step up and deepen our bench, but it is too early in the season to be able to say for sure.”
Returning to the team will be Blake DeZeeuw (goalkeeper, 12 shutouts, all-state honorable mention), Barret Bosscher (forward, 11 goals, all-district), Isaac Bowden (defense, all-district), Dirk Rodenbaugh (midfield), Tucker Tossey (forward, five goals, all-district), Logan Hart (midfield, all-district), Nathan Eisenga (forward, defense), Cam Baas (midfield), juniors Titus Best (defense, all-district), Gideon Curell (defense) and sophomores Cotlon Winkle (midfield), Ty VanHaitsma (midfield) and Elijah Yount (forward).
New to the team is junior Elijah Kimbel (midfield) along with freshmen Devin Johnson (forward, midfield), Ethan Lutke (defense), Isaiah Roby (midfield) and Marshall Curell (defense, midfield).
“The team has been focusing on fundamentals,” Mulder said. “With many younger players who will have lots of opportunities to play in the next couple years, we need to start with them now. Most of our seniors can be team leaders but two current stand outs are Blake DeZeeuw and Isaac Bowden. They have been chosen as our first two captains. We believe there are a couple other players such as Nathan Eisenga, Barret Bosscher and Logan Hart that could step up to leadership roles as well.”
The Comets hope to repeat as NMSL champions, but there will be some added challenges, including the addition of Tawas Area and Shepherd to the league.
“The conference is looking stronger this year,” Mulder said. “With the addition of two larger schools and the growth of the historically strong teams who had down years last year, it is looking to be a tougher than normal conference. I believe we will be in the top 25-percent of the conference but I foresee it being a toss up who will stand on top of the conference.”
NMC has already had several matches this season. The Comets played to a 0-0 tie at Clare on Monday in a NMSL contest.
On Friday, NMC won its home early season tournament, called the Comet Cup. They topped Kalkaska 3-2 in a shootout, getting two goals by Bosscher and one assist by Hart, with DeZeeuw getting the win in goal.
In the finals, NMC edged Buckley 1-0, getting a goal by Bosscher and an assist by Hart. DeZeeuw also had six saves in goal.
“This game we still were able to create good chances on net but still failed to put the ball in the back of the net way too often,” Mulder said. “It will definitely be something we will focus on in future practices. Thankfully we put enough in the back of the net and were able to win the Comet Cup for the second straight year.”
On Wednesday, Aug. 17 NMC opened the season against NMSL foe Big Rapids Crossroads. The Comets won this contest handily, 8-0.
Bosscher had three goals, Eisenga had two goals and two assists and with one goal each was Best, Tossey and Kimbel. Hart had two assists with Rodenbaugh and Curell getting one assist apiece.
DeZeeuw was in net to get the victory.
NMC (4-0 overall, 1-0-1 NMSL) hosts Gladwin on Monday in a key early season league contest.