Marian, Shrine and Regina among best in state, according to Michigan soccer coaches' poll

ROYAL OAK — When the Catholic High School League girls’ soccer playoffs start next week, fans will be watching some of the finest teams in the state — based on the assessments of those who know the sport best.

The latest Michigan High School Soccer Coaches’ Association poll says two undefeated Catholic League teams are tops in the state. Longtime power Bloomfield Hills Marian is ranked No. 1 in Division 2, while upstart Royal Oak Shrine is top-rated in Division 4.

Prior to the latest poll, Warren Regina was also in Division 3’s top spot for a two-week stretch — giving the Catholic League bragging rights in three of the four divisions. The Saddlelites dropped from the upper perch after losing to Dearborn Divine Child last week, but the Falcons are a quality opponent, as their record indicates (12-1-1 overall, 6-1-1 in the Catholic League). Divine Child is also ranked seventh in Division 2.

“The Catholic League has always had some good teams and players,” Marian assistant coach Mike Schimmel said, “and it’s a good year when you have three teams from the league that can be ranked as the top team in the state.”

The Mustangs (9-0 overall, 8-0 league) have won the past two state titles and several Catholic League crowns, so they are not a surprising pick.

“Fortunately for us, we’ve always been very good, so a lot of our players expect to be ranked,” Schimmel said. “Every (season’s) team is different, obviously, but we’ve got a lot of the starters back from last year, and we’ve got some good, young players coming in. At Marian we have a bunch of good players, so we never seem to be short on talent.”

Royal Oak Shrine freshman Claire Plaskey and Grosse Pointe Woods University-Liggett junior Victoria Ortiz fight for a "50/50 ball" in a recent Catholic High School League soccer game won by Shrine. (Photo by Elisabeth Bala | Special to the Detroit Catholic)

For example, the team’s three captains are returning all-state players — with two of them slated to continue their careers in college. Forward Jansen Eichenlaub is a University of Virginia commit, and defender Neve Badalow will play at Michigan Tech. The other captain, Sara Stroud, is an all-state midfielder; she will attend Villanova University.

While the Mustangs have yet to be defeated, Schimmel points to wins over Divine Child and Regina as their best so far this spring. A rematch at Regina takes place Thursday, May 9.

“We have to play hard, play our game and stay focused,” Schimmel said. “Otherwise, Regina’s a very good team and they could take advantage.”

The Saddleites (5-3-3 overall, 4-2-2 league) return a good number of players after reaching the state semifinals last fall. Senior midfielder Mariana Muskovac and junior forwards Jordyn Collier and Katy Feskorn all earned all-state honors in 2018.

While it’s not unusual to see Marian toward the top of the coaches’ poll, it’s a somewhat new experience for Royal Oak Shrine (11-0-0 overall, 10-0-0 league).

“It’s great to be honored, and a privilege being honored by other coaches,” Shrine coach Mark Soma said. “I don’t know if it’s expected; I don’t know how realistic it is, but I do my best to downplay it.”

Nonetheless, the Lady Knights have earned the spotlight, beating big rivals on multiple occasions this spring. They own a pair of 3-1 victories over third-ranked Madison Heights Bishop Foley, and they’ve also twice defeated Wixom St. Catherine — the team that beat Shrine in the Catholic League finals last spring.

“We basically have our same lineup from last year, and we’ve added a couple of good freshmen,” Soma said. “We’re basically the same team as last year, but a year older.”

Like the other highly ranked Catholic schools, Shrine returns several all-state players, including junior goalkeeper Allison LaPoint (an early Central Michigan University commit), junior midfielder Regan Robinson, and sophomore forward Ellie Plunkey.

Royal Oak Shrine senior Chloe Woodbeck dribbles the ball away from Wixom St. Catherine freshman Alexis Kufta. Woodbeck, a Purdue University commit, has led Shrine to an undefeated record. (Photo by Stephen Klimushyn | Special to the Detroit Catholic)

The Lady Knights’ X-factor is senior forward Chloe Woodbeck. After honing her craft on club teams, Woodbeck accepted a scholarship to Purdue University, and this is her first season playing for Shrine. Woodbeck was sidelined last year due to a concussion, yet she’s stepped into the spotlight this spring, leading the team in scoring.

With talent in place, Shrine is hoping for its deepest post-season run yet. Amazingly, the Lady Knights have yet to win a district title in Soma’s 15 seasons.

“We’ve played in a lot of finals, we’ve lost in overtime, we’ve lost in shootouts, but no one’s ever won,” he said. “So we keep working hard and hoping for good things.”

The Catholic League playoffs start May 15 with the semi-final round, and the finals will be contested on May 18. State district playoffs get underway the following week.