SAUGATUCK - The Saugatuck girls soccer program has slowly emerged into a state power the past four years.
While much of that credit deservedly goes to coach Jordan Campbell, for a to go from good to great, it needs a passionate leader.
Adele Nieuwsma has been that for the Trailblazers, building the energy and excitement around soccer, a program that has only been around at Saugatuck a little more than a decade.
"She has brought a good culture change for us. We have had some good soccer players before, but no one who has been so engaged," Campbell said. "She has meant so much. She has a passion for soccer. She is one of those kids who is a magnet in the school community. Kids want to be around her and she is involved in so many organizations. She just talks about soccer all the time and the younger girls look up to her.
"It has glued everything together. The younger kids want to play soccer because of her. The seniors are motivated because of her leadership."
That is what she has done off the field.
On the field, she has been spectacular.
Nieuwsma has been an all-state player the past two seasons and has exceeded that level as a senior with 11 goals and seven assists despite playing mostly defensive midfield. That starts in practice.
"Every practice, we try to make count. If we want to go all the way, we have to make every moment count.Team communication has been better and I know I can trust my teammates. Being able to work off of each other has helped us become a force to be reckoned with," Nieuwsma said.
Saugatuck won its first ever district title two years ago, then repeated last year. This year, the team set the school record for wins at 16-2 and won its first conference title.
After getting to the upper echelon of teams, the biggest switch was the mentality that the Trailblazers belong in this top group.
"My sophomore and junior seasons, we had a lot of games that we should have won. We mentally weren't ready and we lost," Nieuwsma said. "This year, we do everything in our power to win. It takes a lot of mental discipline, but the senior class is so determined. We want that district title. We want to go further than we have ever gone."
In the middle of that mentality is a leader who inspires.
"It has been awesome playing with Adele," said Saugatuck freshman Neave Rewa, who broke the school record for goals in a season with 22. "I have watched her for the past couple of years waiting to play with her, so that has been awesome this year. She is great on and off the field."
Nieuwsma knows her role on the team, but that doesn't change her outlook on the game. She is a team-first captain that has revolutionized the Saugatuck program.
"It feels really special knowing people look up to me. I am humbled because of my team. Without them I am nothing," she said.
The Trailblazers have big goals still on the table, starting with a district three-peat. After beating all of the teams they lost to last year, the team is set up for another run, which begins in the district finals on Wednesday at home.
"We are on a revenge tour this year. For us to play our best and leave everything on the field is amazing," Nieuwsma said. "We want to let the world know what Saugatuck soccer is becoming."
This article originally appeared on The Holland Sentinel: Adele Nieuwsma provides passion to lead growth of Saugatuck soccer to state power