Source: Hometown Life
Author: Dan O'Meara
With so many good, young hockey players last year, Farmington Hills Mercy had the foundation in place to win another championship in 2016.
The Marlins achieved the repeat and won their third title in four seasons Saturday with a 3-2 victory over Grosse Pointe South at Arctic Edge Ice Arena.
Mercy won its previous two championships in the Michigan Metro Girls High School Hockey League’s Division 2 tournament. It played in the top division this year.
For the post-season tournament, the top eight teams in the 17-school league are seeded in Division 1, the bottom seven in Division 2.
The Marlins were the No. 2 seed after finishing in a tie for second place with Catholic League rival Livonia Ladywood. Both were 12-1-1 in the league and half a game behind Grosse Pointe University Liggett.
“Throughout the entire season, we were trying to figure out what worked and to put people in positions that helped the team the most, so we would know what to do when we got to the Catholic League championship and the state playoffs,” first-year Mercy head coach Valerie Sosnowski said.
The Marlins, who finished the season with an overall record of 23-2-1, had it all figured out and knew just what to do.
In a March 8 quarterfinal game, they routed No. 7 Bloomfield Hills, 8-1, and they blanked third-seeded Ladwyood in a March 10 semifinal, 4-0.
Junior Sophia VanAcker scored the winning goal in the victory over No. 4 South, breaking a 2-2 stalemate at 3:30 of the second period with an assist from junior Hannah Hamilton.
“We have a lot of respect for Grosse Pointe South,” Sosnowski said. “They’re a great team, and it was a battle all the way to the end. The girls worked really hard. It was a great team effort.”
After an early South goal, junior Emmie McCann tied the score in the first period, and sophomore Makena Duval gave Mercy a 2-1 lead in the second. Hamilton and sophomore Amelia Bartels helped on the scoring plays.
Maria DiCresce scored both goals for the Blue Devils (17-9-0) and was assisted each time by Lauren Kramer and Carson Dennis.
Like last season, the Marlins had a balanced offense and scoring contributions from a lot of players.
VanAcker was the only Mercy player among the top eight scorers in the league with 23 points in 14 games. McCann had 17, sophomore Maddie Rennie 15, junior Natalie Vaitas 12 and Bartels 10.
“Learning how to play as a team and moving the puck around was a key part of getting to where we are,” Sosnowski said. “A lot of girls got a lot of points, because they were unselfish with the puck.
“The girls are not concerned with their personal stats. They put the team first. As a result, we move the puck around, and a goal can come from anyone.”
The primary reason for Mercy’s success was defense, however. Seniors Caitlin Somerville and Katy Kouvaris shared the goaltending duties again this year and made it extremely difficult for other teams to score on the Marlins.
Somerville, who played in the final game, had a 0.62 goals-against average in the league while playing 360 minutes. Kouvaris had a 0.37 average and 241 minutes.
“We had two phenomenal No. 1 goalies,” Sosnowski said, adding both were four-year varsity players. “We wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for them.
“We gave up 14 goals the entire season, which is by far the lowest in the entire league. That’s a statement about our goalkeeping and defense and our offense backchecking.
“When they have the puck, everybody plays defense and, when we have the puck, everybody plays offense. It’s a team effort up and down the ice.”
Sosnowski, who was a Mercy assistant coach the past two years to Mitch McCann and Joe Jones, cited another reason for the team’s success.
“There’s a special relationship the girls have with each other,” she said. “They have great chemistry in the locker room.
“They’re friends in school; they’re friends outside of hockey. They get along together, and that comes through in the way they play on the ice.”
In addition to the goalies, the only other seniors on the Mercy team are forwards Abbey Przekop and Natalie Cieslak.
The other members of the team are junior Natalie Masopust, sophomores Abbey Roegner, Elena Ervin, Cara Hodgins and Taylor Mackenzie and freshman Libby Bartels.
Libby Bartels and Roegner were the only new additions. The other 15 players returned from last year’s team, and most will be back again next season.
“We’d like to continue to grow and develop as players as well as a team,” Sosnowski said. “We’re going to continue to hold ourselves to a high standard and put ourselves in the best position to win.”
The Marlins, who also won the Catholic League title, didn’t get to play top-seeded Liggett again in the Michigan Metro playoffs. The Knights were upset by Grosse Pointe North in the first round, 3-2.
“We were ready for anybody,” Sosnowski said. “It wasn’t so much about who we played. We just needed to play our game.
“Playing Grosse Pointe South for the championship was a challenge and a really great game. I’m very proud of the girls.”