Marian scores twice late in the first half, defeats FH Northern, 4-2, to win its second straight D2 title.
Williamston – Birmingham Marian’s coaching staff always preaches that the first five minutes and the last five minutes of each half are crucial stretches of a soccer match.
The Mustangs took that to heart Saturday at Williamston High School.
Top-ranked Marian (22-0-1) scored two goals in the final minute of the first half to take a 3-1 halftime advantage, then went on to claim a 4-2 victory over third-ranked Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern in the Division 2 state final.
“You always talk about the first five of every half, but you never expect to actually score two in the last five minutes. We scored those two goals in the last minute of the first half, and they were great goals, and that gave us a little breathing room,” said veteran Marian coach Barry Brodsky.
“I think that took a little bit away from them. But don’t get me wrong. Northern has been here three years in a row and they are tough. (Addie) Brown and (Elyse) DeSchryver are a load to defend up top. That’s why I credit our defense so much. Even though we gave up two goals in a game for the first time since March, our defense doesn’t get up in the scoring much, but they are the heart and soul of this team. We wouldn’t be here without them.”
The win increased Marian’s unbeaten streak to 47 games (46-0-1 in that stretch), and gave the Mustangs back-to-back titles for the third time in 16 years.
Marian is 7-3 in state title matches since 2002. It won titles in 2003, 2004, 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2017. The Mustangs lost in the finals in 2002, 2013 and 2014.
“Even though we won (back-to-back) titles, the girls just play and try not to let the pressure build,” Brodsky said. “We have a lot of talent on this team, but the one thing I love about this group is that they play for Marian. They’re not worried about where they are playing in college, they’re worried about doing something special here at Marian. That’s why I love to coach here. It’s where the expectations of winning a state championship are always here and we’ve been here a lot over the years."
Senior midfielder Annie Bruce sent in junior forward Jansen Eichenlaub on a breakaway in the right corner of the box and the Virginia-commit left no doubt by blasting home the close-range shot with 58.5 seconds left in the half.
With 8.5 seconds left freshman Maria Askounis’ cross from the corner was flicked by Eichenlaub over to an on-rushing Bruce, who laced in her team’s third tally, and it proved to be the game-winner.
Marian, which has not lost since the 2016 state semifinals to eventual state champion Pontiac Notre Dame Prep (1-0), tacked on an insurance goal with 32:13 to play when Bruce, who has signed with Cincinnati, finished off a feed from Eichenlaub.
“That was very important, scoring those two goals (late in the half),” Eichenlaub said. “Coach always talks about playing hard the first five and last five minutes or each half. We didn’t give up and scored those two goals.”
Marian scored first with 36:22 still left in the first half. Just on sides, senior midfielder Claudia Schilling slotted a pass over to sophomore forward Chloe Abelarde, whose close-range shot found the back of the net.
Forest Hills Northern (19-5-0) tied the match with 14:02 to go in the first half when DeSchryver picked up a clearing attempt and scored from 30 yards out.
DeSchryver scored again to cut the deficit to 4-2 with 29:10 remaining when she cut back towards the box following a steal and lofted a high, left-footed shot to the far post.
Forest Hills Northern, which lost in the finals for the third straight season, nearly scored a third goal on a wild goal-mouth scramble with 16 minutes left, but Marian sophomore Anna Leonard cleared the ball off the goal line and out of harm’s way.
“I think we just ran out of gas. We almost cut it to one goal and anything can happen after that,” said Northern coach Daniel Siminski. “I am so proud of us being here for the third year in a row. With all of the players we lost to the (Midwest United Developmental) Academy, players that graduated, a senior center back that tore her ACL, getting here in what most considered a rebuilding year speaks a lot about these kids. We got to the finals and lost to a very good team. We just came up short.”
Marian held an 11-10 advantage in shots, including 10-7 with shots on frame, and also held a 10-5 edge on corner kicks.
Megan Krause finished with five saves in goal for Marian, which outscored the opposition 44-3 in the tournament and 114-13 for the season.
Parker Hutchinson recorded six saves for Forest Hills Northern, which will return 18 of 24 players including eight starters next season.