Marian's DeConinck scores twice in the second half to lead the Mustangs to the Division 2 title
Williamston — Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern accomplished something this season that no other team had done. It led top-ranked Birmingham Marian at halftime.
Nevertheless Marian prevailed.
The Mustangs capped a 24-0-0 season with a 2-1 victory over second-ranked Forest Hills Northern in the Division 2 state final at the Williamston Soccer Complex.
It marked Marian’s sixth championship in eight trips to the finals and second unbeaten season. The Mustangs finished 25-0-0 back in 2004. Marian also captured titles in 2003, 2009, 2010 and 2012. The Mustangs finished as the runner-up in 2013 and 2002.
“People think because you have a lot of talent that you are automatically going to win,” said Marian coach Barry Brodsky. “It’s not that easy. I thought we played a great first half. We controlled play. But we were losing. I thought the first goal in the second half turned it around. We were able to relax and play soccer. We had a ton of chances in the first half, but weren't able to get one in. That’s soccer.”
Marian controlled play throughout the contest, holding an 18-5 edge in shots, including 14-4 with shots directly on frame. Still, the Mustangs trailed 1-0 at halftime.
Forest Hills Northern (20-1-3) scored on its third shot attempt with 15:54 to play in the first half. Freshman Addie Brown took a quick touch from junior Lauren Kozal and fired a high shot that caromed off the bottom of the crossbar and in.
“Usually at halftime, we come over and say awe have to do this and we have to do that. But this game I got nothing (to say),” Brodsky said. “We gave up the one (quality) shot from the outside and it went in. That’s soccer. It’s one tough sport to win.”
Marian finally netted the equalizer when senior Ellie DeConinck blasted home a rebound with 38:45 remaining in the second half.
The Mustangs, who were ranked No. 1 for the entire season after losing in the state semifinals last season to eventual state champion Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, would not be denied this time.
DeConinck scored the game-winner with 20:06 remaining when she corralled a short pass from freshman Anna Leonard in tight traffic, spun around and fired a laser into the net from 12 yards away.
DeConinck also scored in the 2014 final, a 2-1 loss to Richland Gull Lake.
“Our team has worked so hard to get back to this game,” DeConinck said. “We had the opportunity to redeem ourselves. To be able to do that is beyond words. When we were celebrating we were also all balling. We were so happy to have this opportunity again and be able to win it this time.”
Marian, which recorded 17 shutouts and outscored the opposition 105-8, only allowed Forest Hills Northern to attempt one shot in the second half, and that came with 5:58 remaining in the contest.
Senior Isabel Hayes notched three saves in goal for Marian.
“I know she’s not recognized as one of the best goalkeepers in the state, but Isabel played like it this season,” Brodsky said. “She’s been great all season. And Maria Kaschalk has been steady in the back holding our defense together. They have done a great job all season.
“This is great for the girls. We worked so hard to make it here because it’s never easy, having to beat the teams we play.”
Forest Hills Northern’s Amanda Young collected eight saves and her defense cleared four more shots off the line during the first half. The Huskies lost in the final last season (2-1 on penalty kicks) to Pontiac Notre Dame Prep.
“The goal all along was to play for the state championship,” said Forest Hills Northern coach Daniel Siminski. “Last year we went in unranked and a little bit of an unknown. This year we returned almost everybody and were ranked second. We expected to make a run. But this year we simply got outplayed. Marian was the better team and they deserved to win. Marian is so deep. They keep coming at you with waves of players. I think they wore us down in the second half.”