PONTIAC – The Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook-Kingswood Cranes defeated the Pontiac Notre Dame Prep Fighting Irish 4-1 Wednesday night to advance to the district final.
“This is the thing, as we know in soccer, sometimes the ball finds the back of the net, and sometime it doesn’t. The longer you’re a part of this amazing game you see everything,” Cranes head coach Chad O’Kulich said. “It’s playoff soccer. Anything can happen on any given day. We’re just pleased with the way we performed today. We found the back of the net, which as we know in playoff soccer can be hard to come by.”
After a disappointing playoff last year that ended with an upset loss to Farmington Hills Harrison in the district final, Cranbrook was focused from the get-go Wednesday.
“We definitely felt that what happened last year was tough, and we had to come out harder and more focused and not get complacent,” senior captain Clark Doman said.
And Cranbrook did just that.
The Cranes jumped on Notre Dame Prep early, scoring just over 10 minutes into the game when Joe Marvar sped down the left side and threaded a cross in front of goal where Clark Doman was waiting. Doman slid forward, stabbing the ball with his left foot and slotting it inside the near post for a 1-0 Cranbrook lead.
The Cranes made it 2-0 with 22:32 to play in the half when Doman and Marvar teamed up again. This time it was Dolman getting things started by rocketing a shot from 25 yards out that clipped the underside of the crossbar, hit the ground near the goal line and spun back out in front where Marvar was waiting to pounce on the rebound and hammer it home.
‘You have to tip your cap to them (Cranbrook). The came out firing. They did not come out thinking that they were superior in any way. They knew they had to work hard. We just came out flat in the first half, and a good team you can’t do that,” Fighting Irish head coach Rob Suffredini said. “I was proud of how our team came out in the second half because once Cranbrook gets a jump on you like that, I’ve seen teams implode, and we didn’t do that. We hung in there.”
The combination of seniors Marvar, Doman, and Tony Yazbeck, who also scored in the first half, combined to create chance after chance for Cranbrook, especially in the first half. The trio gave Cranbrook an offensive energy that caused the Fighting Irish problems for the entire first half.
“That starts from the bench. Hearing your friends cheer you on, gives you the energy to keep going,” Marvar said.
“I think we work really, really hard in practice every day, and we’re just ready to go. And that’s a testament to how hard everyone on this team work,” Yazbeck said.
After a flat first half that saw them fall behind 3-0, Notre Dame battled back and were much better in the second half as the Fighting Irish started creating a few chances of their own behind the paly of Tyson Lance and Evaristo Garcia-Reyna, who would team up to get Notre Dame Prep on the board with 15:14 to play with Lance scrambling in a loose ball following a Fighting Irish corner kick.
But Cranbrook would kill off Notre Dame’s rally with 3:26 to play when Brayden Priebe rammed home a loose ball in the Notre Dame box, firing it just under the crossbar to seal the win.
Cranbrook (14-1-1) now advances to the district final where they will face Birmingham Brother Rice.
“I think Brother Rice from the beginning is one of the top teams from the Division 1 in the Catholic League. I think it is a phenomenal league they are a part of. They have a great coach in Barry (Brodsky). They are the favorite, and we are grateful for the opportunity to play against Brother Rice,” O’Kulich said. “What it takes for us to win is for us to play to our abilities and to play as a team and to believe and t come out and represent our community with class and respect and play the way that we’re capable of playing.”
Pontiac Notre Dame Prep concludes the year with a 12-8-4 record.
“We had wins against Country Day and wins against Troy, so we had some marquee wins,” Suffredini said. “We had some accomplishments, but we knew there would be very little room for error in this district.”