EAST LANSING — Here’s another indicator that our world is returning to normal: Bloomfield Hills Marian has again won the soccer state championship.
The Mustangs downed Spring Lake, 3-0, to win their fourth Division 2 state title in a row, and ninth since 2003.
“It’s incredible. These are the moments we live for,” said senior captain Olivia DeConinck, who scored Marian’s second goal and also had the game-winner in 2019. “Every game, we never take it for granted. Whoever we’re up against, we give them our all on the field. We can only do this if we play for each other; we play as a team.”
DeConinck connected on her goal just two minutes into the second half, when a corner kick came her way.
“I saw an opportunity, I saw the ball floating above overhead, so I took a step back and aimed for the back post which is where I typically make my runs. I hit it, and it made itself in,” said the Bucknell-bound forward.
Marian (13-3-1) got its two other tallies from freshman forward Elle Ervin. Four minutes into the game, she took a feed from Audrey Flynn into the goal box, and the Spring Lake goalkeeper couldn’t get a solid grip on Ervin’s shot.
Ervin also scored Marian’s final goal just 90 seconds after DeConinck’s tally, with a point-blank shot off another corner kick. That was all that the Mustangs needed to make their point against the Lakers.
“We always say when we first step on to the field, ‘First five’ and we hold up five (fingers), because that’s when the game can be won,” Ervin said. “When you get the first goal or a couple of goals in the first five minutes of the half, it sets the tone for the rest of the game, so it was really important for us.”
Marian had won consecutive state championships in 2017-18-19, but the COVID-19 pandemic made those wins seem like they came an eternity ago, and the Mustangs came into the season wondering whether they still held an edge.
“We took a year off; it has been a while since we’ve been on the field, it’s been a while since we’ve been a team,” DeConinck said. “When we got into the season, it was a new team, a lot of new players; we didn’t know what we were capable of, but we kept proving ourselves every day and kept getting better.”
Marian had gone 6-2-1 during the regular season but lost to Farmington Hills Mercy in the first round of the Catholic League playoffs.
“The beginning of the season we came out with a rough start. We ended up losing some games that we aren’t used to losing. That kind of fueled our fire,” DeConinck said. “By showing what it was like to lose, we never wanted to feel that way again.”
Head coach Barry Brodsky said the ship seemed to be righted following a mid-season loss to Detroit Country Day School, which won the Division 3 state championship prior to Marian’s title game.
“I know that they’re one of the best teams in the state. They beat us, but we played pretty well that day. I said if we played with them, we should be able to play with anyone in the state,” Brodsky said. “The girls work extremely hard, and I’m just lucky to be a part of it.”
As a result, the Mustangs went into the state playoffs freshly focused, and outscored their six post-season opponents 26-0.
“I’m proud of this team. I’m proud of the way we all stepped up and played together for each other,” DeConinck said. “It’s awesome to be a part of this team.”
Shrine falls to North Muskegon in Division 4
Like Marian, Royal Oak Shrine was a defending state champion that had to shake off the rust at the start of the year. The Lady Knights had lost three of their first six games and missed the Catholic League playoffs altogether.
But the Lady Knights eventually figured things out, going 11-0-1 since that point. They just came up on the short end of a 5-0 score against North Muskegon in the Division 4 state championship contest on June 19.
“It’s a substantial accomplishment for the girls, just the fact that they can get here,” head coach Mark Soma said. “Other than maybe being tired and making a lot of mistakes in the game, we played a really good game. The score reflects our mistakes more than it reflects our failures on the field.”
Playing during a steady rainstorm in the first half, Shrine allowed the Norsemen (20-1-1) just one goal before halftime. Even though the weather let up after halftime, the proverbial floodgates opened, as North Muskegon added four more after the break.
“We had spurts of good soccer,” Soma said. “We played a good game in the first half; the second half we were just tired. When we made a mistake, they came right back at us and counter-attacked.”
Shrine (14-4-1) had graduated the majority of its roster that won the school’s first state soccer title in 2019. The senior-heavy Lady Knights did not get a chance to defend in 2020 as the entire season was cancelled because of the pandemic.
“We had a tough start to our season. Not having a season (in 2020), and having a team show up on you and not really know what you were in for, it took a lot of growing and a lot of shuffling,” Soma said. “I hope that they just realize that it’s something special. I hadn’t (reached the state finals) for 20 years, and now we’ve done it two or three years in a row. It’s just special being here; the whole experience is special.”