Full-Strength Brighton Avenges Loss, Extends Championship Streak to 3-Peat

By Jeff Bleiler
Special for MHSAA.com

June 7, 2024

ANN ARBOR — The Brighton High School girls lacrosse team was not at full strength when it faced — and lost to — Rockford earlier this season.

Neither Cecelia Mainhardt nor Ella Toth played in that game.

On Friday, the pair of all-staters introduced themselves to the Rams and carried Brighton to its third straight Division 1 Finals championship at the University of Michigan Lacrosse Stadium.

Mainhardt scored three goals and assisted on another, and Toth added a goal of her own to help Brighton to a 7-4 victory in the first Finals game contested at the U-M venue.

“It feels absolutely incredible. It’s hard to put into words,” said Brighton coach Ashton Peters, who capped her sixth season by capturing Brighton’s fourth lacrosse championship. “To do it in this setting and this stadium, it was an absolute honor.

“It’s school history for us. I don’t know that there’s a team at this school that’s had three state titles on the girls side, so we’re very happy.”

In a defensive game that was somewhat reminiscent of Rockford’s 10-5 regular-season victory, Brighton (19-5) made the most of its opportunities and held the Rams to just four first-half shots.

Toth opened the scoring with a goal at the 5:05 mark of the first quarter after the Bulldogs controlled the ball for the first four minutes of the period. Brooke Gordon tied the score for Rockford with a goal at the 2:22 mark after two straight shots clanged off the crossbar.

Bulldogs goalie Gabi Buckenberger (29) defends as Rockford makes a run at her goal.The second period was all Brighton as Mainhardt sandwiched two goals between a Sophia Heady score that Mainhardt assisted on to give the Bulldogs a 4-1 halftime advantage. Mainhardt and Heady scored 19 seconds apart, and Mainhardt’s second goal came with just 1.8 seconds left on the clock.

Rockford was far more aggressive during the third quarter, scoring twice on goals by Ashley Palmer and Aubree Frazier, but Georgia Gill’s goal kept Brighton ahead 5-3 entering the final quarter.

Mainhardt scored less than two minutes into the fourth, and Gill added another tally just over two minutes later before Frazier’s second goal of the game closed out the scoring with 3:36 to play just as a penalty to Mainhardt had expired. Brighton goalie Gabi Buckenberger came up with several clutch saves throughout the game to preserve the victory.

“It’s so amazing, it’s like nothing I’ve ever felt before,” Mainhardt said. “Ever since we won my sophomore year, it’s a feeling I’ll never forget.”

Mainhardt missed the first game against Rockford with a concussion, and her return to the lineup in the Final, along with Toth’s, was a huge addition for the Bulldogs.

“We were like, this is a bummer because we really want to beat Rockford, but we also knew not having them in that game would put us in a spot where Rockford didn’t know them, which would be an advantage to us because of the talent those two bring to our team,” Peters said.

“The biggest thing for us today was we knew some of the things they did, but they didn’t know everything we could do.”

Rockford, which finished the season with a 13-8 record, was denied a 10th Division 1 title. Coach Mark Neumen said nerves might have played a part in the Rams’ second-lowest-scoring output of the season.

Brighton's Kelly McKaig (3) attempts to gain possession while surrounded by Rams.“A big venue like Michigan, I think the girls were really having a hard time getting going, getting the adrenaline,” Neumen said. “They were really not picking their spots like they normally do. They were shooting to shoot instead of getting those shots off like they normally do. That was the struggle we were having. We were getting good looks but just not finishing.”

Neumen was pleased with his defense, which held Brighton to just seven goals after the Bulldogs had outscored their four postseason opponents by a combined 63-32.

“Holding them to seven goals was probably better than I expected,” he said.

Brighton loses just four seniors, including Mainhardt, who will play at Grand Valley State University next year. Coincidentally, the team had four seniors last year, which Peters admitted she expected to be a rebuilding year.

But losing Mainhardt will be difficult, Peters said.

“She is an incredible player, all-around as an athlete, as a person, everything,” Peters said. “She’s exactly what a coach wants. And in the moments that we need her most, she steps up and she does everything that we need, and today that’s exactly what you saw. She’s going to be greatly missed next year.”

Calling her team “like a family,” Mainhardt said while she will miss playing with them, she will treasure the memories.

“This program has made me one of the best players I could have possibly been, especially the youth program,” she said. “The youth program is incredible, and I just thank my coaches and thank my teammates every day because they’re awesome.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Brighton raises its championship trophy Friday evening at U-M Lacrosse Stadium. (Middle) Bulldogs goalie Gabi Buckenberger (29) defends as Rockford makes a run at her goal. (Below) Brighton's Kelly McKaig (3) attempts to gain possession while surrounded by Rams.

Performance of the Week: Grand Rapids Catholic Central's Claire Marosi

June 13, 2024

Claire Marosi headshotClaire Marosi ♦ Grand Rapids Catholic Central
Senior ♦ Lacrosse

The Cougars’ standout midfielder capped one of the highest-scoring seasons in MHSAA history with two goals and two assists as Grand Rapids Catholic Central edged Detroit Country Day in the Division 2 Final to win its first championship since 2011 and finish this season 23-0.

Marosi finished with 154 goals and 34 assists this spring; her goals rank third all-time for a single season and her 188 points were fourth-most on that list. She’ll continue her career at Northwestern, which finished NCAA Division I runner-up this year after winning the title in 2023. She's interested in studying communications. Marosi also played basketball and ran cross country as a senior, and previously ran track as well.

@mhsaasports 🥍POW: Claire Marosi #lacrosse #GRCC #letsgo #champion #goal #part1 #highschoolsports #tiktalk #interview #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

@mhsaasports 🥍POW: Claire Marosi #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #bridgerton #yoga #hearthands #emoji #car #rolos #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA

Follow the MHSAA on TikTok.

MHSAA.com's "Performance of the Week" features are powered by MI Student Aid, a division within the Department of Lifelong Education, Advancement, and Potential (MiLEAP). MI Student Aid encourages students to pursue postsecondary education by providing access to student financial resources and information. MI Student Aid administers the state’s 529 college savings programs (MET/MESP), as well as scholarship and grant programs that help make college Accessible, Affordable and Attainable for you. Connect with MI Student Aid at www.michigan.gov/mistudentaid and find more information on Facebook and Twitter @mistudentaid.

Past 2023-24 Honorees

June 6: Emmry Ross, Onsted track & field - Report
May 31:
Isaac Sturgess, Flint Powers Catholic baseball - Report
May 30:
Abby Russell, Allen Park track & field - Report 
May 23:
Isabel Thelen, St. Johns tennis - Report
May 16:
Ally Katinas, Novi lacrosse - Report
May 9:
Peter Roehl, Rochester Adams golf - Report
May 2:
Lilah Smith, Richland Gull Lake soccer - Report
April 25:
Mason Mayne, Lawton track & field - Report
April 18:
Alli Wright, Jenison softball - Report
April 11:
Chloe Wishart, Trenton soccer - Report
March 28:
Jenna Maki, Ishpeming basketball - Report
March 22:
Jaremiah Palmer, Niles Brandywine basketball - Report
March 15:
Leah Hodge, North Farmington gymnastics - Report
March 8:
Darius Marines, Detroit Catholic Central wrestling - Report
March 1:
Rylee Smith, Zeeland West bowling - Report
Feb. 22:
Caleb Lewandowski, Traverse City West skiing - Report
Feb. 15:
Jadin Mix, Onaway basketball - Report
Feb. 8:
Onalee Wallis, Cadillac skiing - Report
Feb. 1:
Abbey DeGraw, Rochester Hills Stoney Creek competitive cheer - Report
Jan. 25:
Ewan Todd, Riverview swimming - Report
Jan. 18:
Ashley Weller, Jackson Northwest basketball - Report
Jan. 11:
Michael Baldwin, Saginaw Arthur Hill wrestling - Report
Dec. 15:
Jena Fijolek, Fenton bowling - Report
Dec. 8:
Sophia Wagner, Escanaba gymnastics - Report
Dec. 1:
Isaiah Marshall, Southfield Arts & Technology football - Report
Nov. 24:
Sarah Bradley, Clarkston Everest Collegiate volleyball - Report
Nov. 17:
Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10:
Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3:
Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27:
Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20:
Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13:
Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5:
Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29:
MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22:
Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15:
Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8:
Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1:
Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report

(Photo by Jamie McNinch/RunMichigan.com.)