Novi upsets Grand Blanc, 1-0, to win the D1 title once again
Williamston - Novi had just one shot directly on goal in the second half of Friday’s Division 1 finals at Williamston High School.
The Wildcats seized the moment and capitalized in the 77th minute to earn their sixth state crown in 14 years.
Sophomore Avery Fenchel netted her 21st goal of the season with 3:29 remaining and that was enough to lift sixth-ranked Novi to a 1-0 victory over fourth-ranked and preseason No. 1 Grand Blanc.
The Bobcats (27-2-0) defeated Novi, 3-1, on May 21, scoring three times in the final 10 minutes.
Not this time.
Taking a pass from outside the corner of the penalty box by junior Julia Stadtherr, the ball bounced high between Grand Blanc’s goalkeeper and defender and Fenchel snuck in to steal the ball and place a shot into the wide open net.
“We stayed with it the whole game, applied pressure when we could and got it done,” said Fenchel. “I really don’t know what happened (on the goal). I was just running after it. (Jessie Bandyk) got the ball to me and I finished it. I put it into the back of the goal and that’s what matters at the end of the day.”
Grand Blanc controlled play for nearly the entire second half and the final 10 minutes of the first half but couldn’t score.
“I think our girls played with a big chip on their shoulder,” third-year Novi coach Todd Pheiffer said. “I think with all of the clippings in the press, some thought this was Grand Blanc’s trophy. But I thought we played a very good first half. We were patient. In the second half — and Grand Blanc has three fabulous forwards up top — we held on and frustrated them. They might have had more chances, but our back line is our unsung heroes. I mean players like Lauren Calhoun and Eva Burns made it very difficult for them. And little Eva Burns is just a freshman, but she played great. The entire defense played a great defensive game.”
Novi also won titles in 2005, 2006, 2007, 2010 and 2011 but never as an underdog.
“Grand Blanc only trailed I think three times the whole season. They lost to Brighton 1-0 early in the season, they were down 1-0 to us when we played last month but came back on us, and today,” Pheiffer said. “We were fortunate. We scored late with under four minutes left and not earlier in the game because they are so dangerous. “Had we gone up 1-0 much earlier like last time, perhaps they could have come back. But we held on strong in the end to win another state championship. And we beat some very good teams in the tournament to do so.”
Taking a 24-game win streak into the state finals (the Bobcats were making their third state championship game appearance in four seasons and fourth in 14 years), Grand Blanc couldn’t finish on top.
A longtime powerhouse dating back to the 1980s, Grand Blanc is now 0-6 finals games between girls and boys soccer. The Bobcats also lost in 2004 (3-1 to Northville), 2015 (4-0 to Saline) and Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central (2-0 in 2017) in girls soccer.
“It was just one play, a miscommunication in the back, and Novi took advantage on it. It was just one play in an 80-minute game,” Grand Blanc coach Greg Kehler said. “We made a great run and we had some chances in this game. The girls really wanted to get that first (title). There would be no feeling like it. Being here three times in four years we thought might help us. It just wasn’t meant to be for us.”
Grand Blanc, which featured a number of Division I and Division II players, finished with a 13-10 shots edge in the contest, while both teams traded off four shots on frame. The Bobcats, who outscored their postseason opponents 25-1 and 123-12 for the season, were stymied by Novi’s stingy backfield.
“Hats off to Novi. Their defense did a great job keeping us from getting that goal,” said Kehler. “They are always such a strong program. I think if we could have gotten one it might have been different.”