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GIRLS SOCCER: Defensive-minded Caledonia impresses in district run



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CALEDONIA, Mich. – Sometimes teams win with a vaunted offensive attack. Sometimes they win with stout defense.

This year, Caledonia is one of those teams that definitely wins with defense. And a very good defensive unit to boot.

While the Fighting Scots graduated over 80 percent of their offense from the 2023 squad, Caledonia brought back most of its defense and defensive midfielders this season and have conceded just 10 goals in 16 games despite playing a challenging schedule.

Last season, Caledonia finished second in a deep Ottawa Kent Conference-Red Division behind eventual state runner-up Hudsonville and advanced to the Division 1 district finals before falling to Byron Center. That was behind an All-State First Team star midfielder/forward Jocelyn Herrema, who now is playing at NCAA Division I University of Kansas, and forward Gracie Gortmaker, who is now playing basketball and soccer at NAIA Cornerstone University. Those two players combined for nearly 50 goals last season as the Fighting Scots boasted a potent offense on the pitch.

“We had some great offensive players last year that scored a lot of goals for us. They graduated unfortunately,” offered Caledonia coach Sam Stearns. “This year our forwards are young. But they are coming around a little bit. We have won with our defense, for sure. Our backline and midfielders do a (collectively) great job not giving other teams many chances.”

This season, Caledonia heads into regional play with just a 21-10 scoring edge and carries a 9-5-2 record and 0.63 team goals-against-average into this week’s regionals, where the Division 1 Sweet 16 will be played at four sites across the state. The offense has come alive somewhat in the postseason, as the Fighting Scots blanked East Kentwood (3-0) and 14th-ranked Byron Center (2-0) in the first two rounds of the state tournament and posted the biggest upset so far of the postseason in upending Division 1 top-ranked Hudsonville 2-1 in a shootout in the district finals on Friday night.

Hudsonville was ranked in the top spot in the MIHSSCA Division 1 rankings all season long with just one loss prior to the state tournament – a shootout loss to Grand Haven (1-0) during the OKC-Red Conference Tournament semifinals this season. The Eagles were the state runner-up in Division 1 in 2023 and reached the regional finals in both 2021 and 2022. Hudsonville posted a stellar 66-7-10 record over four seasons (2021-2024), rivaled by very few programs in the state across four divisions.

Hudsonville had not lost to Caledonia in that stretch and had one of the state’s top offensive and defensive teams in the state in Division 1 during that four-year period.

“It is an upset. I won’t lie,” admitted Stearns, Caledonia’s head coach who has helped the Fighting Scots back up to being a respectable program the last few years. “Our defense was great against Hudsonville, as it has been all season long. And our goalkeeping has been outstanding.”

Senior goalkeeper Davanee Balczak, who was an All-State First Team selection last season, has signed with NCAA Division II national powerhouse Grand Valley State University and has been turning heads and turning away All-State forwards and midfielders with regularity for four seasons. She has recorded all seven of her team’s shutouts this season and was quite active in the district finals against Hudsonville.

“Davanee is one of the top goalkeepers in the state if not the top goalkeeper,” beamed Stearns. “She’s been great back there her whole career. Our defense is also very strong. We have (five) seniors that will play in college next year and three of them play on our back line. When I add up Davanee's totals for this season and for her career, she’ll own a lot of school (goalkeeping) records for us.”


Senior center backs Laney Peterson (NCAA Division I Western Michigan University) and Alexa Pearson (NAIA national power Spring Arbor University) have led the defensive unit, along with senior outside back Kendall Maynard (NCAA Division I Butler University) and junior outside back Ally Reisner, who stepped in for injured senior Alicia Rice the last few weeks.

Hudsonville defeated Caledonia 2-0 back on May 2 and again 1-0 in the third-place game of the Ottawa Kent Conference-Red Division Tournament on May 16. But as ‘they say’, beating a team three times in one season in sports is a difficult accomplishment to carry out, especially with the third meeting normally being in a tournament setting.

Freshman Averi Rosted notched the game-clinching penalty kick in the shootout, where Caledonia held a 4-3 advantage. Balczak recorded 16 saves before making a stop in the shootout to help the Fighting Scots record the upset and break the Division 1 state tournament wide open.

Senior midfielders Bella Teelander (NAIA Aquinas College) and Abigail Kramer (NAIA Olivet University) and junior midfielder Josie Wilcox (NCAA Division II Davenport University commit) have teamed up with Rostad and sophomore forward Baylee DeVries in the attack for Caledonia.

Rostad scored in regulation for Caledonia, while sophomore NCAA Division I recruit Laura Moylan scored for Hudsonville (14-2-2) during the district finals clash.

The Fighting Scots will face fifth-ranked Portage Central in the regional semifinals Tuesday at Hudsonville. The Mustangs are another stout defensive program and another mainstay in the Division 1 state rankings for years. Portage Central boasts a 14-2-1 record, has been ranked for four continuous seasons, won the Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference regular season and tournament titles this year, captured its fourth straight district title with a 6-1 scoring edge last week, has outscored its opposition 60-7 this season with 11 shutouts and has posted a team goals-against-average of 0.42 this season.

“Portage Central is another team that is always tough and they have a lot of history,” noted Stearns. “They don’t give up a lot, so we have to be prepared for them.”

(Have a story suggestion for the Premier Media Group and the Michigan Soccer Network regarding club soccer, high school varsity, amateur soccer, collegiate soccer or professional soccer of teams or players with Michigan ties, contact Communications Specialist/Web and Content Editor/Director of News Dan Stickradt via email at, or call 248-884-1051. Dan Stickradt is a 31-year veteran of the Michigan Media circles and recently joined the staff full time in March of 2024. Want to schedule a broadcast game or live show, contact PMG/MSN Director of Broadcasting Jonathan Turner for availability and pricing at 

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