Soccer - Girls

Birmingham Marian seniors take advantage of return trip to state finals WITH PHOTO GALLERY

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The Mustangs defeated Forest Hills Northern 2-1 to capture a Division 2 state title Friday.

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After a three-year wait, Birmingham Marian’s Ellie DeConinck received a long-desired opportunity for redemption Friday and didn’t let it slip away.

Returning to the Division 2 state finals at Williamston High School for the first time since her freshman year, DeConinck helped her fellow seniors atone for narrowly missing out on a championship in 2014.

Her two second-half tallies allowed Marian to come from a goal down to capture a dramatic 2-1 victory over Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern.

“Ellie scored when she was a freshman in the state finals and we lost that game 2-1. We talked at halftime and we both said that’s your goal down there,” Mustangs coach Barry Brodsky said Friday, pointing to the net at one end of the field. “Sure enough, she got two more.”

The 2014 loss to Richland Gull Lake – Marian’s second of back-to-back finals defeats – had been lodged in the minds of DeConinck and senior teammates Maria Kaschalk, Olivia Zardus and Elaina Eckert, whose careers came full circle Friday.

“Of course, that game has haunted me since freshman year,” DeConinck said. “I know I’m not alone in that. The four of us that were on that team as freshman have been working with that in the back of our mind for years. To be able to avenge ourselves for that, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”

The first half was shaping up similarly to the 2014 championship game, with the Mustangs throwing everything they could at the net and generating prime scoring chances. But the Forest Hills Northern didn’t crack, clearing away at least four chances right on goal line, and the Huskies made good on their lone offensive chance to take a 1-0 lead.

“We were here four years ago against Gull Lake and totally dominated them and we lost the game,” Brodsky said. “Unless you put something in the back of the net, it doesn’t matter how great you’re playing.”

It didn’t take long after halftime for DeConinck to knot the score, as she buried a shot just 1:15 into the second half. Her second goal came with 20 minutes to play, after which time the Mustangs clamped down defensively and didn’t allow another shot on net.

“Coming out (in the second half), it was all about energy and bringing up the level and making sure we played our way. I was just really proud our team pulled it off,” DeConinck said.

“To be a champion, that’s all I’ve ever wanted for the past four years and I know every girl on our team was all in on that too. Every girl was all in at every practice and every day. It all paid off now. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Marian will graduate six seniors in total, including midfielder Juliette Thomas and goalkeeper, Isabel Hayes, who became a two-sport state champion, adding to her 2014-15 title with the Marian basketball team.

“For whatever reason, Isabel is not recognized as one of the best keepers in the state. She had 14 and a half shutouts,” Brodsky said. “Maria Kaschalk is her centerback, a senior going to Troy University. She controls it back there. She’s so calm and composed and I’m a nut on the sidelines. We do communicate in some manner, but she’s one cool customer.”

The Mustangs (24-0) have now won six state titles since 2003.

Last Updated: 6/17/2017 12:19:01 PM EST