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Rockford hangs on to defeat Marian in the Division 1 final, East Grand Rapids takes D2 title in girls lacrosse

By: Jeff Chaney, June 6, 2015, 8:37 pm

     Rockford — Rockford needed a dialed in Katie Elwell on Saturday, and that’s exactly what the Rams got from their senior goalie.

     Rockford was in the midst of blowing an early seven-goal advantage against Birmingham Marian in the Division 1 state final. The Mustangs were in control the entire second half on Rockford’s home field.

     Marian was peppering Elwell with shot after shot, but she stood tall in net and stopped 11 shots in helping the Rams win their third straight state title in exciting fashion, 10-9.

     It was another day of superiority from teams from the Grand Rapids area as East Grand Rapids won its fourth straight Division 2 title earlier in the day, 19-6 over Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.

     But all of the excitement was saved for the nightcap, as Elwell helped her team come out on top after having an 8-1 lead in the first half.

     "I knew we came out a little bit slow (in the second half), and I give a lot of credit to Marian because they came out really fast and were in it," Elwell said. "They really stopped us, and I knew I had to step up my game.

     "It is hard for me to focus sometimes, and I knew I really had to focus in the moment and all the ball so I could help the team. Just trying to watch everything around me, help the defense and direct everyone, so they know where they need to be, and sometimes it gets a little too much directing everyone, so I knew I had to focus."

     A relieved Rockford coach Mike Emery, whose team ends its year with a 21-3 record, was glad his goalie was on point.

     "Sometimes Katie does have a hard time focusing," Emery said. "But she is a senior, this is her third championship and sometimes we don’t play a lot of teams where we are on the defensive end, so sometimes they don’t get a lot of work during the game. and today we talked about finishing strong, get your third championship and be the difference today, and I thought she was the difference in the game today."    

     In the first half it was Rockford’s offense, as the Rams jumped out to an 8-1 lead thanks to three goals from junior Grace Gunneson.

     But the Mustangs scored three of the first half’s final four goals to give them a chance in the second half.

     "We had a period in the first half where we were two men down, and they got a good jump on us and score four or five in a row," said Marian coach Jamie Francek. "Then we had to battle back the whole game, and it’s tough, we were down 8-1 at one point, and once you get down by six or seven goals against a very good team, it is very hard to make it close, but we made a game out of it."

     That the Mustangs did, behind two goals from sophomore midfielder Claire Kelly.

     Marian (21-4) out-scored Rockford 5-1 in the second half, and had a chance to tie the game with less than a minute left, but an offside penalty cost the Mustangs.

     "We could have had the tying goal if it wasn’t for the off sides, and then it was a bad toss (on the faceoff) and went to the other girls stick,’" Francek said. "I was very proud of how they fought back. The balls didn’t bounce our way this time. I would love to play them again, because if it wasn’t for that period (in the first half) when they got up on us, I think we were the better team."" 

     That’s not how Emery say it.

     "Our young kids grew up today, and when they needed to close it out, they did it," Emery said. "And I’m proud of them."

     There was less drama in the day’s first game as East Grand Rapids (24-1) dominated Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood to win its fourth straight Division 2 title.

     The Pioneers are 92-5 in the last four years and they did not lose to a team from Michigan. The last loss to an in-state team came in 2011 to Grand Rapids Catholic Central in regional competition.

     "This (senior) class is clearly our best class — the best we ever put on a field," East Grand Rapids coach Rich Axtell said. "They set a really high bar for the underclassmen, and the underclassmen know it."

     One to do that was senior Liza Elder, who scored six goals Saturday. She signed with Northwestern, one of the top teams in the Midwest.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Highlights from this game can be seen on the State Champs! HS Sports Show on Fox Sports Detroit on Sunday morning at 9:00 am