Bloomfield Hills Marian celebrates its regional title win after falling short in 2023 in a 3-2 loss to Grosse Pointe North in the regional semifinals.

Bloomfield Hills Marian celebrates its regional title win after falling short in 2023 in a 3-2 loss to Grosse Pointe North in the regional semifinals.

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Retooling Mustangs have eyes on state finals in 2025, star-studded senior class bids farewell

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published June 28, 2024


BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Nothing like a little déjà vu feeling in your final high school soccer game.

As freshman sensations, Bloomfield Hills Marian’s 2024 senior class continued the longstanding tradition of Marian girls soccer, earning a Michigan High School Athletic Association Division 2 state championship in a 3-0 win over Spring Lake.

Now seniors with one game separating them from becoming Division 2 state champions and putting a final stamp on their high school careers, seniors Dani Mertz (GK), Agatha Valka (CF/RF), Olivia Zahnow (CB/RB), and Madeline Stenger (RF/LW) stared down the very team they defeated to kick off their high school careers June 15 at DeMartin Stadium in East Lansing.

“We had, obviously, four seniors that played against them in 2021, and they had close to 10 or 11 that had lost to us,” Stenger said. “It was definitely a battle of numbers of who had been there and who had the most experience and just the feeling of everything that surrounds a state championship. It was definitely full circle.”

The strength in numbers favored by Spring Lake would prove to be the difference maker as Spring Lake would defeat Marian 1-0 on a first half goal by Aveya Patino.

Marian had utilized the strategy of striking first and going defensive-heavy to end the game throughout the MHSAA state tournament, earning shutout wins in all their previous matchups and winning three of them by a 1-0 score.

First-year Marian head coach Danny Price, also the head coach of Bloomfield Hills Brother Rice boys soccer, said he knew the first team to put one in the back of the net would be the state champion.

“They scored, and then they dropped their two outside backs into a back five, and they made it really difficult for us to get behind them,” Price said. “We should’ve scored twice in the second half — actually three times with one off a free kick, one off a corner, and one in the run of play.”

Marian was unable to get the job done in the 1-0 loss, leaving a talented 2024 senior class with a bitter taste in their mouth to end their high school careers, but their impact throughout four years of work in the program was immeasurable.

Collecting a state championship and two state runner-up finishes, Marian’s senior cast continued the legacy of championship reins and embodied the culture of making everyone around them better and supporting the underclassmen group.

“They were kind of like the last class of the Barry Brodsky era,” Price said. “They were freshmen in Barry’s last season, so they’ve gone Barry’s season, Reid (Friedrichs) for two seasons, and then me for a season. They’re a very resolute group. They love the program and they love the traditions. They’re smart individuals, and they gave their all to the program.”

Zahnow (defender) earned first team all-State honors, while Mertz (goalkeeper) tacked on a third team honor as well this season.

Culture-leading senior classes come and go, especially in the case of Marian, where there’s a surplus of talent, but this one will always have a special place in the school’s history. For Stenger, she said the bond between the class was indescribable.

“We’ve all been stuck together for the past four years,” Stenger said. “There’s some articles on how the last time we played Spring Lake it was the same seniors when we had won the state championship in 2021, and ever since then I think we’ve just had our own connections and our own bonds. This season, it’s been really senior-ran. I would say the upperclassmen look up to us a lot and look for our advice. There’s no one else I would have rather done it with.”

A loss on the state finals stage is always a tough pill to swallow, but what it also showed was how talented the future of Marian soccer is.

With a slew of underclassmen taking the field in the most prestigious game of the season, Marian showed it has all the talent to make another run.

Price has shown throughout his time at Brother Rice that he isn’t afraid to give the freshmen and sophomores their starting minutes, and it was well earned with this group.

“We started the game on Saturday (state finals) with three seniors in the starting lineup, which is kind of unheard of, to be honest with you,” Price said. “Our entire midfield was made up of two sophomores and a freshman. The forward line was a senior, a junior and a sophomore. The backline was a senior, a sophomore and two juniors, and our keeper was a senior. I think they started their lineup with nine seniors. I’m proud of them, in a sense, because the future is bright at Marian soccer.”

Marian sophomore midfielder Clair Dauer was a first team all-State selection, while sophomore forward Giulianna Agrusso, sophomore defender Lily Robinson and freshman midfielder Nia Bordogna all earned all-State honorable mention to go along with sophomore Brooke Salkowski, sophomore Madeline Najor and freshman Francesca Kulpa all playing in the state finals.

With another strong freshman class incoming, there’s no telling how talented the Marian team that will hit next season will be.

If one thing is for sure, it’s that they’re locked in on the state finals.

“We’re ready, and I think it (the state finals) was good for us underclassmen,” Dauer said. “We had a lot of underclassmen get that experience of being in a state final so, hopefully, that will give us the experience of knowing how to get there and repeat it, but not make the same mistakes. We want to get back and win a state title.”