EAST LANSING, Mich. — The Division 4 girls soccer state finals between North Muskegon and Royal Oak Shrine Catholic certainly got off to an interesting start on Saturday afternoon as an intense downpour began.
However, the game would continue and the players would brave the elements throughout the first half.
Just under twenty minutes left in the opening half, senior Hope Johnson would chip the ball ahead to sophomore Jaley Schultz, who beat the goalkeeper to give North Muskegon a 1–0 lead going into the half.
The rain would let up in the second half, but the Norse offense would not, as Johnson would get in all alone on the goalkeeper, finding the back of the net to give the Norse a 2–0 advantage just seven minutes into the second half.
Minutes later, senior Emily Olsen would win a battle in front of the net to extend the lead to three before Katie Kinahan and senior Audrey Wilson added the daggers late in the game.
The Norse would cruise to a 5–0 victory and the program's first-ever state championship in girls soccer.
"It feels like this is what they deserved, honestly," said first-year head coach Caleb Parnin. "I'm happy as a coach and proud they won of course, but the girls deserved it; they just did."
And Parnin was quick to acknowledge the community support in the stands in East Lansing.
"We only have 3,000 people in our town, and it sure felt like all of them were up there tonight," Parnin laughed. "We could feel it and it was loud."
Meanwhile Hope Johnson, the team's leading goal scorer throughout the season, would finish her high school career with two assists and a goal on the big stage.
"I don't even know how to put it into words," she laughed. "This is such a great group of girls; I couldn't have wished for a better group, and we all love each other so much. I don't know what I'm going to do not getting to see them all the time."
Senior goalkeeper Syann Fairfield would pitch yet another shutout in net, with help from another outstanding defensive effort.
"We thought last year was our year, and we were a little iffy about this year even happening," Fairfield admitted, "but from the start of the season, we knew it was ours, we were working so hard for it and it shows. I'm more than thankful to go out with this team this way."