By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
ROCKFORD – Lacrosse often is not a goalie’s game – and especially not when the player defending the net must stop the speedy lime-sized ball flying at her multiple times from point-blank range.
But her teammates were correct Saturday in giving Rockford goalie Katie Elwell the game ball after the top-ranked Rams’ 10-9 win over Bloomfield Hills Marian in the MHSAA Division 1 Final.
After opening up a comfortable 8-1 lead during the first half, Rockford found the net only two more times during the final 33 minutes.
Elwell – who signed as part of the first recruiting class for the new program at Central Michigan University – stopped 11 shots total and allowed only two goals over the final 20 minutes to help the Rams secure their third straight MHSAA championship.
“I don’t credit myself. Everyone stepped up at one point to help us, and especially at the end. We couldn’t have done it without every single girl on that field,” Elwell said.
“It’s hard for me to focus sometimes (while also directing the defense), and I knew I just had to focus in the moment and focus on that ball so that I could make that stop to help my team.”
Rockford is 59-14-1 over its three championship seasons, its best single-season finish of the run this spring at 21-3. Its only losses this spring were twice to Division 2 champion East Grand Rapids and Arrowhead, the top-ranked team in Wisconsin.
The Rams had gotten a look at Marian already this season as well, defeating the second-ranked Mustangs 14-7 at the end of April.
But the Marian looked like two teams over the course of Saturday’s Final.
The Mustangs took a more aggressive attack to Rockford during the second-half run, which included multiple goals by senior Caroline Forester and sophomore Claire Kelly.
Marian turned up the pressure one last time during the final two minutes, but two key plays by freshman Brooklyn Neumen and a clutch save made the final score stand.
Neumen first caused a turnover on her team’s side of the field. Marian senior Olivia Hargrave-Thomas stole the ball at 1:24 to regain possession for her team. Elwell turned away what could’ve been the game-tying shot by Forester with only 55 seconds to play. With 36 seconds left, Neumen won a jumpball to the front right of the Rockford goal and sprinted downfield to run off most of the remaining time before her teammates took care of the rest.
“Katie, we talked to her about that before the game, and I was just talking to her about that now too: ‘Let’s be the difference-maker today,’” Rockford coach Mike Emery said. “We wanted her to be the difference-maker, and she definitely was.”
Junior Grace Gunneson and senior Alexandra Vandermolen both scored three goals for Rockford, and Vandermolen also had an assist. She scored the Rams’ final goal four minutes into the second half to give them a 10-7 edge.
Senior Hannah Lievois also was up to the championship task in net, making eight saves for Marian. The Mustangs were making their second appearance in an MHSAA Final and also finished runner-up in 2009. They finished this spring 21-4.
“Once you get down by six or seven goals, against a good team, it’s very hard to make it close. We made a game of it, right to the end,” Marian coach Jamie Francek said.
“I would love to play them again, if we could,” he added. “If it wasn’t for that little period of time in the first half where they got up on us, I think we were the better team most of the game.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Rockford goalie Katie Elwell works to deflect a shot during Saturday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) Marian’s Caroline Forester splits defenders while bringing the ball upfield.
Bloomfield Hills advanced to the Division 1 Semifinals this spring with one of the highest-scoring lineups in MHSAA girls lacrosse history, and one of its most accomplished goalies.
The Black Hawks scored 325 goals – sixth-most on the list – in going 19-4. Ella Lucia, then a junior, posted 17 single-game record entries for goals, assists or points, finishing with 125 goals, 59 assists and 184 points and pushing her career numbers to 186 goals, 113 assists and 299 points over three seasons.
Teammate Ilana Watson, a senior this spring, was added eight times for single-game accomplishments and also for 71 goals, 64 assists and 135 points for the season and 102 assists and 205 points over her two-season career. Goalie Sydney Butler, now a senior, made the single-season saves list with 186 and the career list with 466 over her first three seasons. Marlee Watson, who also graduated in the spring, was added for seven goals in a game.
See below for more recent record book updates for girls lacrosse:
On April 25, 2022, Holland West Ottawa then-senior Ella Spooner scored 13 of her team’s 16 goals against Zeeland. Those 13 goals tied for fourth-most in one game and also placed her on the single-game points list. She is playing at Kalamazoo College.
Troy Athens’ Claire Balintfy piled up eight record book entries during her sophomore season in 2022. A goalie, she posted a career-high 22 saves to tie for eighth on the single-game list, on which she appears six more times. Her 231 saves over 18 games that season rank second on that list as well.
Lexie Springman took 12 shots and made eight in Portage’s 19-9 win over Grand Ledge on April 5. She was a senior at Portage Central and is continuing at Regis University in Colorado.
Haslett/Williamston’s Abby Russell opened her high school career March 22 with a record book-worthy performance. The Haslett now-sophomore made the single-game goals list with seven in her team’s 10-9 loss at Portage.
Okemos’ Bridget Cox was a sophomore during the 2021 season when she earned her first four record book entries. She made the single-game saves list three times with a high of 16, and totaled 157 saves over 18 games total.
Holly/Ortonville Brandon tallied three single-game entries this past season. Junior Dakota Pinson made the single-game goals list with 10 against Fenton/Linden on May 4. Junior teammate Lainey Lasky made the same list twice with seven goals both times, against Flushing on May 3 and Lake Fenton/Goodrich on May 16.
Through three seasons, Salem’s Mileena Cotter has earned 35 record book entries – including setting the single-game record with 18 goals April 6 against Saline. Her 123 goals over just 10 games this past season rank seventh, and her 257 goals over 30 career games rank ninth on that list. Her career-high 19 points on April 5 against Dexter rank second for points in a game. She’s committed to sign with Syracuse.
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep junior Emily Szalach earned a record book entry with her 11 goals against Warren Regina on May 15 during a 13-12 triple-overtime win. It was the first entry for NDP for girls lacrosse.
Lake Orion’s Quinn McElroy capped her three-season varsity career this spring with eight record book listings, including for 69 goals and 100 points over 16 games as a senior, and 172 goals and 224 points for her career. Teammate Morgan Vasquez made single-season lists with 66 goals and 81 points, as did Amelia Guccione with 50 goals. Ava Adkins joined McElroy and Vasquez with single-game qualifiers, hers for 15 saves in a game against Troy Athens on April 12. Vasquez is a senior and Guccione a junior this school year, and Adkins also graduated this spring. McElroy is playing at Grand Valley State.
A pair of Detroit Cass Tech senior standouts made single-game and season scoring lists this spring. Taylor Weston made the single-game goals list three times, with a high of eight, and for her 64 goals total over 15 games; she also earned a listing for her 53 goals as a junior in 2022. Teammate Kayla Carroll-Williams made the single-game list twice, both for scoring seven goals, and the single-season list for 62 goals over 15 games.
PHOTO Bloomfield Hills goalie Sydney Butler, center, prepares to stop a shot against Bloomfield Hills Marian on May 11. (Photo by Susan Adams Photography.)