Birmingham Marian strikes quickly for semifinal victory
Novi — Birmingham Marian used the one-two punch of forwards Jansen Eichenlaub and Ellie DeConinck to get by Linden, 2-0, in the girls Division 2 state soccer semifinals on Tuesday.
DeConinck put the left side of the Linden (21-2-1) defense under tons of pressure and looked for Eichenlaub at every chance. The connection led to both Marian goals and most of its shots. Marian (22-1) will play Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern in the D2 final 4 p.m Friday at Williamston High.
"Jansen and I have a really good chemistry," DeConinck said. "She works so hard off the ball and she makes it easy for me to plays balls to her."
With 26 minutes remaining in the first half, Eichenlaub used her wheels to penetrate the Linden defense then cut back and found DeConinck wide open. DeConinck then buried the game's first goal, a one-timer.
About a minute and a half later, Marian midfielder Elaina Eckert threaded a perfect through-ball to Eichenlaub who hammered it home to put Marian up 2-0.
Linden started slow. Senior midfielder Alia Fredrick registered Linden's first shot on goal, a 30-yard effort, 18 minutes into the game.
Fredrick was Linden's best player, but Marian's stout defense had her struggling to find opportunities.
Linden goalie Madison Paige performed admirably in her best game of the year, taking the ball right off the head or foot of Marian forwards on several occasions.
"She played phenomenally," Linden coach Kevin Fiebernitz said. "She made three or four big saves and without her we might have lost 5-0."
Legs got tired leading to a scoreless second half with few good chances for either team.
Marian's senior goalie Isabel Hayes wasn't tested often but played aggressively, coming off her line to snuff out long-ball opportunities for Linden.
Marian coach Barry Brodsky continued with his season-long superstition of not talking to media after the game so assistant Mike Schimmel explained what was working for the team:
"We always try and keep the ball down, play on the ground, find feet and see if we can get wide. We were successful on that and got a couple goals off it."
The first half tested the teams' fitness, with temperatures in the high 80s. The referee stopped play halfway through for a water break.
Linden beat last year's state champion Pontiac Notre Dame Prep to capture the first regional title in team history.
Marian beat Dexter 2-0 in its regional final.
Grand Blanc vs. Utica Ford, at Stoney Creek, 7 p.m.
Saline vs. Forest Hills Central, at Spring Arbor, 7 p.m.
Forest Hills Northern 4, Holland Christian 1
Bloomfield Hills Marian 2, Linden 0
Freeland 3, Hudsonville Unity Christian 2
Flint Powers Catholic 2, Macomb Lutheran North 1
Muskegon Catholic Central vs. Kalamazoo Christian, at Comstock Park, 7 p.m.
Grosse Pointe Liggett vs. Lansing Christian, at Troy Athens, 7 p.m.