Madison Bruno one-timed a Madisyn Bunke pass into the cage 40 seconds into the sudden-death overtime period to earn Forest Hills Field Hockey the 2017 Michigan High School Field Hockey Association Division II state championship over Grosse Pointe University Liggett.
While Forest Hills won the regular-season title and held the top seed in the tournament, Liggett was the only team to defeat them during the season, with a tight 1-0 win on August 26. This set the stage for a truly thrilling rematch in the title game at Ann Arbor Huron Saturday.
Liggett controlled much of the play in the first ten minutes, earning two penalty corners quickly. However, goalkeeper Molly Growney turned away a rocket shot from Liggett’s top scorer, Kate Birgbauer, to keep the game scoreless.
Over the rest of the first half, Forest Hills gradually took control of the play, rarely allowing the ball into their defensive half of the field. Soon, scoring chances started to pile up for the top seed, with penalty corners accumulating. Finally, on the 6th corner opportunity of the first half, juniors Madison Bruno and Madisyn Bunke connected for the game’s opening goal, with 4:50 remaining before halftime.
Forest Hills carried the 1-0 lead for the next 27 minutes, keeping Liggett from getting a penalty corner or shot on goal through most of the second half. Then, a defensive breakdown left Naomi Yoshida open near the goal line, and she buried the shot to tie the game with less than 8 minutes remaining.
With the championship on the line, the game turned physical. Two Liggett players received 5-minute yellow cards in the final minutes of regulation, giving Forest Hills the advantage in the closing seconds. However, two shots clanged off the post, and another one sailed just wide, and regulation time ended with the score still tied 1-1.
Tournament field hockey breaks ties via a ten-minute, 7-on-7 overtime period, followed by a potential 1-on-1 shootout. However, having lost in shootouts in 4 of the previous 5 state tournaments, Forest Hills wasted no time in avoiding that situation.
Liggett started with the ball during overtime, but Bruno quickly stole the ball and beat a defender into the scoring circle, earning a penalty corner when another defender interfered. Using the same play that scored the first penalty corner goal, Bruno then rifled Bunke’s pass, which somehow found its way into the goal to win the game only 40 seconds into overtime.
The championship is not only the first for Forest Hills, but the first for any West Michigan team in the state tournament. It also means that Forest Hills will be automatically promoted to Division I for the 2018 season. Despite its two one-goal losses on the season, Forest Hills dominated competition throughout the season, outscoring opponents by a total of 89 to 7 including tournament play.
The Forest Hills junior varsity team also went undefeated in the regular season and finished second in the state JV tournament.