Liggett soccer embracing early challenges

By: Zachary Manning | Grosse Pointe Times | Published April 17, 2019

 Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Victoria Ortiz plays the ball in a game against Clarkston Everest Collegiate April 11. Liggett won 1-0.

Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett’s Victoria Ortiz plays the ball in a game against Clarkston Everest Collegiate April 11. Liggett won 1-0.

Photo by Sarah Purlee

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GROSSE POINTE WOODS –– It’s hard to picture a team that has made four consecutive Division 4 state semifinals as an underdog.

But that’s how the Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett girls soccer team likes to view itself. Even with multiple trips to the final four and a state championship in 2016, the Knights often felt overlooked during those runs.

So with a slow start to this season, Liggett isn’t panicking. Coach David Dwaihy and the Knights relish the underdog role and want to prove people wrong. At press time, Liggett was 2-3 overall.

“This group has always been, including the year we won it all, a team that I think is kind of easy to overlook,” Dwaihy said. “We don’t necessarily have huge score lines. We’re not beating teams by multiple goals when we’re winning games. It’s still a close game. I think that’s kind of just how these girls go about doing it. Nothing real flashy; nothing attention seeking. Just kind of compete and see what we can do.”

Despite the losing record, Dwaihy has been pleased with the play of his team. Four of the Knights’ five games have been decided by one goal.

A positive for the Knights has been veteran leadership. After losing seven seniors from last year’s group, Liggett was in need of new leaders. This year, Liggett is being led by seniors: Nicole Rivera and Mary Weiermiller, and captains Kate Birgbauer and Isabelle “Izzy” Brusilow.

Brusilow has paced the Knights in scoring with three goals. Junior Kate Carron has also added a score. Birgbauer has dished out a team-high two assists, while freshman Ava Said and junior Victoria Ortiz have also chipped in one assist each.

“From the beginning of my career here, he put me at center defense, and that position is also known as the field general. I have no choice but to be vocal,” Birgbauer said. “From day one, it was kind of intimidating coming in as a freshman having to yell at four-year, varsity letter-winning seniors, but they really nursed me in that role. They were telling me from day one, ‘You got to be vocal. You got to be the voice out there.’ So that’s probably where I stand out. Izzy brings our competitive edge up front, but I bring the voice and the structure from the back.”

As the season progresses, the road won’t get any easier for Liggett. The Knights, who compete in the Catholic High School League, will see all three teams that have knocked them off already and must play Grosse Pointe North and Grosse Pointe South, which compete in the top division of the Macomb Area Conference.

“As a player and as a coach, I think it’s always so much more satisfying and also just a little bit easier when the expectations are a little lower, and you can just kind of show up and shock a team that’s not expecting much of you,” Dwaihy said. “We’re kind of trying to cultivate that a little bit this year, for good reason. We’ve fallen off the radar, but we’re happy to see if we can change that by the end of the season, and it gives us a little bit of a chip on our shoulder.”

Liggett will take the field again at 4:30 p.m. April 23 at home against Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood.

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