NORTVILL — When Isa Agrusso makes a promise, she’s determined to keep it. On Wednesday night, she showed her Bloomfield Hills Marian football teammates that she was true to her word.
When Marian and Haslett drew 1-1 in the state division two semi-finals held at Cook School in Northville, Agrusso found herself in the game’s defining moment. Playing a penalty with 6:41 left in the game, the senior prepared to try and give Marian a belated advantage by claiming a spot in Saturday’s State Championship on the line.
There was pressure.
“At the beginning, I was a little nervous in front of the PC,” admitted Agrusso. “But I thought, ‘I know I want to score this goal. I want to win this for my team, for everyone, for all my friends and family, and for the school that came to support me.”
She also remembered the promise she made to her injured teammate El Erwin. Ervin was Marian’s highest prolific scorer that season, but she went down with a knee injury in Marian’s previous game and was unable to take the field against Haslett. At the team banquet, Agrusso made a promise to Erwin.
“For our banquet, I wrote a speech for her and promised that I would score her a goal and win this game.”
Agrusso made good on his promise by scoring a penalty into the bottom left corner of the goal despite Haslett’s goalkeeper Ellie Maloney reading the shot well and putting his hand on it. Suddenly, Marian took a 2-1 lead with less than seven minutes left.
“I think I hit him with enough speed to hit the target,” Agrusso said. “I was a little nervous, but when it happened, I was very excited. So, it was good. It worked… I was filled with so much joy and pride. I heard all my friends and our school come to watch us perform our fight song, so it got me very excited. I knew I had to finish this game and we all had to finish, but I was just really excited. It was a great moment.”
Marian (17-1) managed to hold on to a 2-1 win, ending his comeback from a 1-0 deficit he had at half-time. Marian will play Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central for the state title on Saturday at DeMartin Stadium in Michigan. The start of the game is scheduled for 16:00.
“The result at half-time was excellent,” said freshman coach Reid Friedrichs of Mariana. “I looked at everyone and they knew this was the moment. We talked about it like this: “This is the moment. Everyone has a playoff moment. This is our playoff moment.” We played pretty well and conceded a goal (in the first half), but none of these players had any fear in their eyes or any kind of pout. It was all: “We can do it.” That was great.”
As if playing without Ervin was hard enough, Marian almost thought she had lost another player when young midfielder Caroline Flynn went down after a knee-to-knee collision with 11:01 left in the first half. After spending a few minutes on the lawn, she left under her own power, but applied an ice pack to her knee.
Fortunately for Marian, Flynn returned in the second half and managed to turn the tide.
After Marian’s free kick, the ball went to Flynn at the opposite end of Haslett’s goal, allowing her to shoot it into the net from close range after a low bounce to equalize 1–1 with 27:04 left. play.
“I’m not going to lie, it was all a blur to me,” Flynn said. “I foresaw this and I am always told that if I am on the far side of the punch, don’t let it go over the baseline. It’s my job to keep him from crossing the finish line. I saw the ball and it went over somebody so I just went for it and hit the far post.”
After two teams took a mandatory water break midway through the first half due to the heat index hovering around 101 degrees, both teams were still hoping to score a goal.
With just 2:20 to go, Haslett (17-2-1) was on the board thanks to a beautiful end to a long free kick. Bringing the ball in from 55 yards away, Haslett Sr. Sophie Novak sent a beautiful ball into the scrum in front of the net. Senior Alexa Nystrom was in the perfect spot to head off the rebound to give Haslett a 1-0 lead.
In the second half, Marian corrected once more and did a better job of stripping Haslett of opportunities. Friedrichs couldn’t praise his defenders enough for their efforts in the second half.
“We did a good job,” Friedrichs said. “We just started doubling (Kaema Amahri from Haslett) every time she got it. Then we would just have Sabrina (Yaldu) and Nadia (Valka) – who was an incredible freshman – she was on that 23rd. The back line protected us so well because we knew they could shoot and get him from anywhere.”
As if one knee pain wasn’t enough, Flynn also suffered from a bloody nose before the end of the game. However, after the victory, injuries did not seem to bother her as much as at first.
“I think the win probably helped a little,” Flynn said.