Preview: Soccer Returns with Past Champs, New Contenders

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 17, 2021

Four first-time finalists – one playing in each championship game – will make their MHSAA Girls Soccer Finals debuts this weekend at DeMartin Stadium.

They'll be joined by reigning champions in Bloomfield Hills Marian and Royal Oak Shrine Catholic, and two more past champs looking to climb once again as the first titles are awarded since 2019 after last season was canceled due to COVID-19.  

Following is this weekend’s schedule:

Division 1 - Saturday - 4 p.m.
Troy Athens vs. Hartland

Division 2 - Friday - 4 p.m.
Bloomfield Hills Marian vs. Spring Lake

Division 3 - Friday - 1 p.m.
Boyne City vs. Detroit Country Day

Division 4 - Saturday - 1 p.m.
North Muskegon vs. Royal Oak Shrine Catholic

Tickets cost $9.40 and may be purchased online only at GoFanOne ticket is good for all girls soccer, softball and baseball games at MSU’s Old College Field that day. All four Finals will be broadcast and available with subscription from, with free audio broadcasts on the MHSAA Network.

Below is a glance at all eight teams taking the field, with statistics through Regionals: 

Division 1

19-4-1, unranked
League finish: Third in Kensington Lakes Activities Association West
Coach: Andrew Kartsounes, 16th season (189-80-42)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Hannah Kastamo, jr. F (20 goals, 10 assists); Justina L’Esperance, sr. M (22 goals, 8 assists); Julia Pietila, sr. F (16 goals, 7 assists); Morgan Seog, jr. GK (0.27 goals-against average, .939 save %).
Outlook: Hartland has won 10 straight games and now reached the Semifinals for the first time. The Eagles shut out their first five postseason opponents – including reigning champ Novi and No. 14 Lake Orion – before defeating No. 11 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central 3-2 in the Semifinal. Senior midfielder Jaden Frigerio had a team-high 13 assists entering the week as Hartland has outscored its opponents by a combined 89-15. Sophomore Leila Al-Qallaf (0.83 goals-against average) has split time with Seog in goal, and they’ve combined for 13 shutouts.

17-1-4, No. 2
League finish: Third in Oakland Activities Association Red
Coach: Todd Heugh, 10th season (119-46-35)
Championship history: Four MHSAA titles (most recent 2000), two runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Nitya Balusu, sr. GK (0.77 goals-against average, 11 shutouts); Abby Mayne, jr. M (20 goals, 13 assists); Gillian Ciak, jr. M (11 goals, 7 assists); Alyssa Carnes, jr. D (9 goals, 4 assists).
Outlook: In 2019, Heugh coached the Athens boys team to its first championship since 1997, and this weekend his girls team will attempt something similar in their first title game appearance since the 2000 win. The Red Hawks have eight straight shutouts, including a 2-0 win over No. 20 Ann Arbor Skyline in the Semifinal. Junior Casey Gruber (9 goals/2 assists), sophomore Amanda Leonard (8 goals/8 assists) and freshman Alex Haggerty also share in a balanced scoring effort.

Division 2

12-3-1, No. 12
League finish: First in Detroit Catholic League Central
Coach: Barry Brodsky, 20th season (345-30-37)
Championship history: Eight MHSAA titles (most recent 2019), three runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Lauren Briggs, sr. M (3 goals, 6 assists); Abby Lucchesi, jr. M (4 goals, 5 assists); Elle Ervin, fr. F (23 goals, 3 assists); Maria Askounis, sr. F (10 goals, 8 assists).
Outlook: Marian is seeking its fourth-straight Division 2 championship and also hasn’t given up a goal during the postseason with senior Izabel Toma a standout in net. The tournament run has included wins over top-ranked DeWitt, No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood and No. 13 Dearborn Divine Child. Askounis and now-senior Emily Rassel scored Marian’s goals in the 2019 Final, and now-senior Olivia DeConinck started that Final as a sophomore. Askounis earned all-state honorable mention that season.

15-3-2, No. 4
League finish: Second in Ottawa-Kent Conference Blue
Coach: Becky May, fifth season (69-8-5)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Meah Bajt, jr. F (31 goals, 8 assists); Zoe Komar, sr. F (10 goals, 4 assists); Eryn Bouwhuis, jr. D (7 goals, 8 assists); Jessica Stewart, fr. GK (0.95 goals-against average, 9 shutouts).
Outlook: Spring Lake has won District titles every season under May, who played at Michigan State, and this season took a few more steps reaching its first championship match. They advanced with a 2-1 Semifinal win over No. 7 Byron Center, and the Lakers’ only losses this spring were twice the Division 3 No. 2 Hudsonville Unity Christian and once to Division 1 No. 3 Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern. This could be just the first of a few deep tournament runs; Spring Lake will graduate only three starters.

Division 3

21-1-2, No. 7
League finish: Tied for first in Lake Michigan Conference
Coach: Eduardo Fantozzi, fifth season (68-24-2)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Jordan Noble, sr. M/F (33 goals, 29 assists); Inanna Hauger, sr. M (12 goals, 22 assists); Taylor Noble, sr. M/F (33 goals, 13 assists); Ally Herrick, sr. M/D (3 goals, 3 assists).
Outlook: A star-studded group of sophomores who helped Boyne City to its first Semifinal in 2019 have the Ramblers headed to their first championship game this weekend. They’ve navigated one of the toughest tournament roads, defeating No. 6 Elk Rapids, No. 8 Cheboygan, No. 10 Big Rapids and No. 2 Hudsonville Unity Christian along the way. The lone loss was to Elk Rapids in April. Jordan Noble made the all-state first team, Hauger and Taylor Noble the second team and Herrick earned honorable mention in 2019. Sophomore Reagan Woodall (13 goals) and senior Megan Harmeling (14) also are finding the net regularly this season.

16-2-2, No. 1
League finish: Does not play in a league.
Coach: Laura Hamway, sixth season (74-21-6)
Championship history: Five MHSAA titles (most recent 2004), five runner-up finishes.
Players to watch: Lila Bienhold, sr. GK (0.50 goals-against average); Calihan Bearden, sr. D (2 goals); Madison Salzenstein, sr. F. (11 goals, 4 assists); Jordan John, sr. F (6 goals, 4 assists).
Outlook: Country Day is making its first championship game appearance since back-to-back Division 3 runner-up finishes in 2014 and 2015. The Yellowjackets were in Division 2 the last season of play, in 2019, and Bienhold made the all-state first team with Bearden and Salzenstein earning honorable mentions. They’ve given up just one goal over five postseason games this spring while also navigating a difficult path, defeating No. 3 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep, No. 5 Grosse Ile, No. 13 Williamston and No. 15 Clawson. Country Day also has wins over Division 1 finalist Troy Athens and Division 2 finalist Bloomfield Hills Marian.

Division 4

19-1-1, No. 6
League finish: First in West Michigan Conference
Coach: Caleb Parnin, first season (19-1-1)
Championship history: Has never played in an MHSAA Final.
Players to watch: Hope Johnson, sr. F (36 goals, 21 assists); Audrey Wilson, sr. M (18 goals, 15 assists); Emily Olsen, sr. M (21 goals, 21 assists); Syann Fairfield, sr. GK (5 goals scored, 2 assists; 14 shutouts).
Outlook: North Muskegon made back-to-back Semifinals in 2018 and 2019 and has taken another step into its first Final. Fairfield and Wilson made the all-state second team as sophomores, and Fairfield has given up only five goals over 17 games this spring. The Norsemen have allowed only one goal over five postseason games, with shutouts of top-ranked Grandville Calvin Christian and No. 16 Muskegon Western Michigan Christian along the way. Sophomore forward Natalie Pannucci (17 goals, 9 assists) also is among offensive catalysts.

14-3-1, No. 11
League finish: Third in Detroit Catholic League AA
Coach: Mark Soma, 21st season (record N/A)
Championship history: Division 4 champion 2019.
Players to watch: Ellie Plunkey, sr. F; Bridgette Drouillard, jr. M; Addy Vemulapalli, soph. GK. (Statistics not submitted.)
Outlook: Shrine reached and won its first Final in 2019, and then graduated a number of past all-staters last spring who would’ve given them a strong chance of returning in 2020 – but has come back this spring with just three senior starters. Shrine has given up only one goal over four playoff games, to No. 15 Bad Axe in the Semifinal, and also has defeated No. 9 Allen Park Inter-City Baptist and No. 12 Adrian Lenawee Christian during this run. All three losses came in April, to No. 3 Clarkston Everest Collegiate, Division 3 No. 17 Wixom St. Catherine and Division 2 No. 6 Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood.

PHOTO: Marian's Maria Askounis makes a run at the goal during the 2019 Division 2 championship game.

'Where is Spring Lake?' They'll Know Now as Lakers Begin Reign Atop D2

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

June 15, 2024

EAST LANSING – Ella Andree and Clara Saunders started recording a three-part Tik Tok on the opening day of Spring Lake’s girls soccer season, knowing that in order to film Parts 2 and 3 they would need to advance to, and win, the MHSAA Division 2 Final.

On Saturday, they finished the video.

Spring Lake defeated Bloomfield Hills Marian 1-0 at DeMartin Stadium to avenge a 2021 championship match loss to the Mustangs and claim the first Finals title in school history.

“If we won, we had it ready,” Andree said. “We did win, so I hope it looks good.

“The start of our season was a little rough, we had a lot of ties, and we didn’t really know where we were going to end up. But we pulled it together and figured out what players needed to do what, and to be here is super crazy.”

Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Clair Dauer (16) and Spring Lake’s Elaina Furton work for possession.Andree assisted Aveya Patino on the game’s lone goal, and goalkeeper Jessica Stewart made four saves behind a stout Spring Lake defense to give coach Becky May her first title in her eighth season coaching at her alma mater. That it came on the campus where May played collegiately only made it more sweet.

“Extremely proud of my girls, but just proud of West Michigan, our community and how we’ve been able to step up and really make a name for ourselves in the soccer world,” May said. “I played on this field in college, so as a homecoming for me, here’s why it’s important: When I got announced the first time I started at Michigan State, they announced me from Spring Lake, Michigan, and the girl next to me said, ‘Where in the world is Spring Lake?’ No one heard of anyone outside the sub(urb)s of Detroit. Well, they’ve heard of us now. So I’m very proud.”

The 2021 championship match appearance was Spring Lake’s first, and that ended with a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Marian. Andree, Saunders and Stewart were among the players on the field Saturday who had played in that game as freshmen, and getting another shot at the Mustangs certainly added motivation.

“I feel like to replay the team that you originally lost to is always a great feeling,” Saunders said. “It’s just like a second chance. We have gotten a lot better, and I’m just glad that we made it back here. Especially for my senior year. We came out and did what every team wishes to do, is go all the way, and then we won it. I couldn’t be happier or more proud of this team.”

Saturday’s match was tightly contested, with both teams having long stretches of possession but not creating many big scoring chances.

The one that hit the back of the net started when Andree won a ball in the corner and played it across the goal. Marian keeper Dani Mertz was able to get a hand on it, but not all of it, and Patino was there to clean it up, scoring the 29th goal of her freshman season. It was also the first goal Marian (15-4-3) had allowed during the postseason.

Spring Lake players begin their celebration.“You can’t coach speed, (Patino and Andree are) born with those wheels, and all you have to do as a coach is just put them in the right spot, get them to work together, and they’re just going to be destructive from beginning to end,” May said. “So even when they don’t find the back of the net, they’re putting defenses on their heels and they have to respond to them and react to them. As a result of that, that gives us much more opportunity to possess in the middle of the field. So we put them up top, let them run havoc and then enjoy the benefits of that.”

From there, Spring Lake (17-2-5) stood tall defensively, not allowing the Mustangs to get a great chance to tie the game. With a back three of seniors Ella Rabideau and Brooke Bolthouse and junior Lauren Nicles playing in front of the experienced Stewart, May felt comfortable. Marian, meanwhile, was left frustrated as plenty of second-half possession failed to result in many opportunities. 

“They defended with five,” Marian coach Danny Price said. “I watched the Midland game where they played them in the Regional Final, and both of their outside backs were flying forward and they gave us a ton of space. In the first half, they did the same thing. After they scored their goal, they dropped their outside backs really deep and defended with five, which is what we’ve done in the postseason as well. I’ve got to give them props for that, they defended quite resolutely.”

Price was in his first season at Marian, and took over a young squad, as the Mustangs graduate a strong, but small (four) senior class.

“We’ll be back,” he said. “We’ve got a young squad, and we’ve got tons of freshmen coming in; we’ll just reload. We’ll be back here again.” 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS (Top) Spring Lake keeper Jessica Stewart, in green, goes high to get a hand on the ball Saturday at DeMartin Stadium. (Middle) Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Clair Dauer (16) and Spring Lake’s Elaina Furton work for possession. (Below) Spring Lake players begin their celebration.