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Beverly Hills, Birmingham, Utica

June 12, 2014

Marian, Country Day and Eisenhower soccer teams take aim at state titles

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Marian's Oliva Zardus pushes the ball during a playoff victory against Regina. The Mustangs face Gull Lake for the second straight year in Saturday's D-2 final.

BIRMINGHAM — So close, yet so agonizingly far.

That’s how Barry Brodsky and his Birmingham Marian soccer team felt last year as the final seconds of the 2013 Division 2 state final ticked away.

After a scoreless regulation, Richland Gull Lake struck in overtime for a 1-0 lead.

Chances came sparingly the rest of the way, and when all was said and done, Marian headed home with a runner-up trophy.

A year later, the Mustangs have their shot at redemption.

“Yeah, we wanted them,” Brodsky said with a laugh about Saturday’s final rematch, a 3 p.m. title game against Gull Lake at Williamston High. “We respect their program. I love the way they play and presented themselves at the finals. You had to admire all that. But at the same time, we wanted another shot at them, and what better place than this.”

The teams have combined for one loss in 45 games since last year’s thriller.

Gull Lake is 23-1-1 on the year and fresh off a 1-0 victory against Grand Rapids Christian in the semifinals.

Marian, 19-0-1, trailed Livonia Ladywood 1-0 at halftime, but roared back for a 3-1 win in Wednesday’s semifinal, and would like to duplicate that style of play Saturday.

“We put the chances we had in the back of the net,” Brodsky said of his team, which scored three goals in roughly nine minutes against Ladywood. “That’s the key (against Gull Lake).”

In last year’s final, “we carried play the first 10 minutes or so, and had some great chances,” Brodsky added. “But we didn’t cash in on any of them. As the game played out, Gull Lake kind of adjusted, and started playing better. We didn’t have many chances after that.”

Cashing in on any chances, early or late, will be key for the Mustangs, who are seeking the sixth state title (2012, 2010, 2009, 2004 and 2003) in program history.

“I think we’ll play well,” Brodsky said. “Whenever our teams have gotten to the finals, we’ve always played well. I think all the pressure is getting here. Once you’re there, you know it’s your last game and you can throw everything out on the field and just play.”

Country Day seeks first title since 2004
Since the 2005 season, nine state titles have been awarded in the Division 3 tournament.

Last year’s went to Grand Rapids South Christian.

In 2011, Flint Powers Catholic took home the crown.

The other seven belong to Hudsonville Unity Christian, which has a shot at No. 8 Saturday.

Beverly Hills Detroit Country Day provides the opposition in the noon game at Mason High.

Unity Christian defeated Paw Paw High 4-0 in the semifinals and enters the title game with a 22-1-0 record.

Country Day, which beat Freeland High 3-0 in the semis, enters with a 21-3-3 mark.

“We’ll be the underdog in that game,” Country Day coach Bob Bukari said. “It’ll be a battle, but a great challenge for our girls.”

Unity Christian’s dominance in D-3 includes six consecutive titles from 2005 through 2010, and again in 2012.

The team lost in the 2011 final.

It should be noted, prior to the run of championships, Country Day won the 2004 crown.

Powers collide in D-1
In the D-1 final, Utica Eisenhower and Northville High are set to tango at noon from Williamston.

Northville beat Okemos High 3-0 in a semifinal, and is looking to wrap up a perfect season, now 22-0-0.

Ike beat Utica Ford 3-0 in the semis and is 18-2-1.

“Right now, we are going on all cylinders," Ike coach Mehrdad Nekoogar said after the Ford win. “Once we scored the first one, I knew that it was going to get open and we would score more goals. It was just a matter of time to get the first goal because we did not want to go to the penalty kicks.”

The Eagles, in the finals for the first time since 2007, get to contend with a Northville team that’s allowed one goal the entire postseason, and that was in a 3-1 district final victory against Novi.

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.