NOVI – Overcoming a canceled season in 2020, Rockford made it eight straight Division 1 lacrosse titles with a 19-16 victory over Brighton on Saturday at Novi High School.
Only last’s year break due to COVID-19 has interrupted the Rams’ near decade-long dominance – although the Bulldogs made a strong attempt as the teams met in the championship game for the third-straight season.
“This is just a special group of young ladies,’’ said Rockford coach Mike Emery. “They’ve been through so much with the off-field stuff, COVID and the protocols. We lost our season last year. To be able to finish our season this year is just incredible.
"We’ve had a lot of great teams, and this team stacks right up there with them. This is one of my most rewarding seasons.”
Rockford (14-4) also had defeated Brighton (18-6-1) during the regular season 19-5.
“We had a lot of players under quarantine back then,’’ said Brighton coach Ashton Peters.
“I think they started to get a run on us in the beginning (this time). We came back and made it close, we just didn’t have enough time. I truly believe we could have won, but they scored five straight points and we couldn’t get back in it.’’
Rockford got on the board early on a goal by Chloe Dunham, who scored six goals total, with an assist from Mackenzie Delacher. Seconds later Isabelle Osborn, who tallied five goals, scored for the Rams to make it 2-0.
Osborn made it 3-0 less than one minute later with her second goal.
Brighton finally got on the board with a goal by Gabby Mainhardt. But Sydney Walsh made it 4-1 for the Rams, and seconds later Chloe Holmes tacked on another to make it 5-1.
Mainhardt scored her second to cut the deficit to 5-2.
Holmes scored her second for Rockford to make it 6-2. Ella Boose became the second player to score for Brighton to trim the deficit to 6-3.
Osborn scored her third goal of the game to make it 7-3, and Katherine Rodriguez scored seconds later to make it 8-3.
Sophie Mondro ended the streak for Brighton to reduce the lead to 8-4. Rodriguez scored her second for Rockford for a 9-4 lead.
Dunham scored her second as Rockford reached double figures, 10-5.
“We didn’t really know what to expect this year, and it kind of gave us a new perspective as far as what a privilege it is to be out here, and we love the game,’’ Dunham said. “We played that way today. We have a lot of balance and we trusted each other.’’
Mainhardt scored her third for the Bulldogs to make it 10-6. Osborn’s fourth gave Rockford an 11-6 lead, but Kaia Malachino closed the first half with a goal for Brighton.
After trailing 11-7 at halftime, Amanda Granader scored her second goal of the game to get Brighton within 11-8 early in the second half.
Walsh helped stem the tide with her second goal to make it 12-8.
Rodriguez scored her third to increase the Rams lead to 13-8. Dunham made it three straight goals for the Rams to extend the lead to 14-8.
Dunham’s fourth made 15-8 as Brighton’s offense wilted until Mainhardt scored back-to-back goals to make it 15-10. She finished with five goals. Dunham added her fifth with an assist from Osborn to put Rockford up six.
Dunham tacked on her sixth to increase the lead to 17-10 and Osborn’s fifth made it 18-10.
Two goals by Amaria Whitby got the Bulldogs to within five goals, 15-13.
With 1:09 left, the Bulldogs had cut the lead to 19-16 on Boose’s second goal as Rockford’s offense became turnover prone. But the Rams were able to hang on for the final minute-plus to close out the championship.
PHOTOS: (Top) Rockford’s Isabelle Osborn (15) considers her next move Saturday while Brighton’s Olivia Groce guards her. (Middle) Abbie Chaka (15) and Kelley Elizabeth (26) defend the Bulldogs’ goal.