2018 Champ Novi No Longer Overlooked

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

May 2, 2019

NOVI – Perhaps it wasn’t such a surprise that Novi won the MHSAA Division 1 girls soccer championship last season.

Sure, Grand Blanc, ranked No. 1 at the time, was the favorite – an overwhelming favorite by some estimations. That opinion alone places added pressure on the team that’s expected to win and, yes, Novi was the recipient of a Bobcats defensive miscue on the game-winning goal late in its 1-0 victory.

What is apparent is that many overlooked the Wildcats. Forget about the five losses they suffered during the season. No program plays a more competitive schedule, and much can be said of a team’s mental toughness after having faced high-level teams week after week. Novi caught fire at the right time and allowed just three goals over its seven tournament games.

Rest assured, no one will overlook Novi this season as the Wildcats are 8-0 and ranked No. 1 entering the month of May.

Todd Pheiffer is in his fifth season as head coach, and the 1992 Novi graduate is used to winning. He spent nine seasons at Ann Arbor Huron and guided the River Rats to the program’s only title (in Division 1) in 2008. He was an assistant coach under Brian O’Leary at Novi when the Wildcats won MHSAA Division 1 titles in 2010 and ’11. Novi has won six MHSAA titles in girls soccer, the most of any program at the Division 1/Class A level.

Pheiffer lives and breathes soccer. He’s coached the boys team at Novi since 2016 and he also coaches a club team. His first boys team at Novi reached the Division 1 Semifinals before losing to East Kentwood. Last season Novi lost in overtime to Detroit Catholic Central, 3-2, in a District Final. His daughter, Abbey, a sophomore, is the starting goal keeper after serving as the back-up. Todd Pheiffer and his wife, Michele, also have a son, Zachary, who plays on a U12 travel team. The Pheiffers are also math teachers – Todd at Novi, Michele at rival Northville.

Todd Pheiffer didn’t begin his professional career in education. After graduating from University of Michigan, he entered the computer software business but found that field unfulfilling. He went back to school and received his teaching degree in 2009 (from Eastern Michigan) before earning a master’s in athletic administration and educational leadership from Wayne State University. He spent a year teaching at St. Clair Shores Lakeview before going to Salem for a half-dozen years and then to Novi in 2015.

“It just kind of worked out,” he said. “I thought I’d go into computers and then be an attorney. I don’t make the money I used to, but I love what I do.”

Novi lost to Brighton in the Districts in Pheiffer’s first season with the girls team, then reached the Division 1 Semifinals the next before losing to Rochester Hills Stoney Creek – which went on to win the MHSAA title. Novi then lost to Plymouth in a Regional Semifinal in 2017 before breaking through last season.

“We had a few players back from the team that lost to Stoney Creek in a shootout, and I told them we could have won it that year,” Pheiffer said. “Last year we lost the last two games of the regular season and my captains got the team together and told them that’s not it, that’s not how we’re going to end our season. They got them back up and motivated. We knew if we won our District that we would host the Regionals and have a good shot at going far.”

The Wildcats received additional incentive from another source. After Novi defeated Troy, 4-1, in the Semifinal and Grand Blanc held on to defeat Midland, 1-0, words were said that provided locker room material.

“The girls were on their phones with each other saying did you see what the Midland coach said,” Pheiffer said.

Jessie Bandyk is a four-year starter as an attacking center-midfield and she clearly recalls what took place between the Semifinals and Final.

“We saw things in the paper, that Grand Blanc was a sure thing (to win)” she said. “Pretty much everybody felt that way. It gave us motivation. Honestly, I think we could have done it either way.”

That’s confidence. And that confidence is back despite Novi losing five senior starters to graduation, including goal keeper Callie Rich, and two defenders. Abbey Pheiffer’s play in goal has provided a significant boost. Abbey started seven games as a freshman, so she does have valuable varsity experience. Over the first eight games this season, she’s stopped 39 of 41 shots with six shutouts.

“I definitely credit our defense,” Abbey said. “Our team chemistry has been really good this season.

“Last year was a lot of fun. Novi always has a big target on (its) back. Now that we’re state champs and doing so well, they want to give us that loss. I remember in scrimmages the other players talking about how they wanted to beat us.”

One of Novi’s best players is junior forward Avery Fenchel. She has a knack for scoring goals, and none was bigger than the one she scored against Grand Blanc in the 2018 Final. Fenchel led Novi in goals and points her first two seasons, and has eight goals and seven assists so far this season.

“She has a great field awareness and is very unselfish when she has the ball,” Coach Pheiffer said. “Although she loves scoring goals, she is always willing to make that extra pass when it’s the best option.”

Not to be overlooked is the play of its defenders, notably returning starters Lauren Calhoun, a senior center back, and sophomore Eva Burns, an outside back.

“Everyone wants to talk about who scored the goals and who had the assists,” Pheiffer said. “Our defense is definitely a strength.

“This season is tougher. There’s added pressure. We’re No. 1 now. Last year nobody looked at us. Our girls are motivated by that. We have a brutal schedule and play in a tough league (Kensington Lakes Activities Association). Plymouth is ranked No. 7 and Hartland is No. 4, and we play them both twice. Northville and Brighton are in the top 20 and Canton, which tied (No. 2-ranked) Grand Blanc isn’t even ranked.” 

For Bandyk and the other four seniors who start, this is their final hurrah, their last chance not only to win a title but to play together as teammates.

“There’s a group of us who play travel together, and having chemistry outside of high school helps,” she said. “We set some goals before the season, not only to win a state title but to have more fun and to make the most of this season.”

Tom Markowski is a correspondent for the State Champs! Sports Network and previously directed its web coverage. He also covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Novi’s Jessie Bandyk moves play ahead during last year’s championship game win against Grand Blanc. (Middle) Abbey Pheiffer lines up to send the ball downfield this spring. (Below) Wildcats coach Todd Pheiffer mulls things over during the Final. (Middle photo courtesy of Novi athletic department.)

McBain Northern Michigan Christian's VanNoord Building on Career Excellence

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

May 13, 2024

Jada VanNoord entered her senior season this spring on the MHSAA girls soccer career goal list with 108 over her first three seasons at McBain Northern Michigan Christian, and after scoring 40 with 63 total points in 2023.

She also was just shy of making the career points list after making the single-season list as a sophomore with 52 in 2022.

VanNoord has signed to continue her career at Cornerstone University.

See below for more recent additions to the girls soccer record book, and click the heading to see the record book in full.  

Girls Soccer

Sophomore Macy Freeman became the first from Otisville LakeVille Memorial to be listed in the girls soccer record book when she scored all eight goals in her team’s win over Flint Carman-Ainsworth on April 29, 2022, and she was added for the second-highest scoring game in history with 10 goals last May 12 against Marlette. Freeman also was added for 43 goals total as a sophomore and 39 as a junior, and she entered this season on the career goals list as well with 81.

Brighton Charyl Stockwell’s Cassie Hall earned a pair of record book entries for her offensive performance as a junior in 2022. She made the single-season goals list with 55 and single-season points list with 60.

Although her 224 saves as a senior in 2022 fell just shy of making the single-season list, Parchment goalkeeper Gabrielle Novak finished her career with 713 over three seasons and 51 games – with 2020 canceled because of COVID-19. She was joined that spring by senior Kasey Leckie, who made the single-season goals list with 32.

Grace Hewitt became the first West Michigan Aviation Academy player to be listed for career goals, as she tallied 75 from 2019-22 (with 2020 canceled). She also was added for 32 as a senior.

Remus Chippewa Hills’ Karley Densmore made 36 saves against Big Rapids on April 25, 2022, tied for fifth-most in one match, and her 292 over 17 games for the season rank third. Additionally, teammate Hayley Gomber was added for five assists in a game against Mason County Central on April 7, 2022. Both were juniors.

Kelila Rustin made the single-season saves list in 2022 with 251 over 17 games. She was a sophomore at Ionia.

Allison Johnson earned Howard City Tri County’s first girls soccer record book entry in 2021, scoring 30 goals over 19 games. She graduated in 2023.

Schoolcraft’s Hannah Thompson totaled 18 record book entries over three varsity seasons, despite missing her sophomore year which was canceled due to COVID-19. The 2022 graduate five times had a single-game high of eight goals, and as a senior she bested her state record for points with 99 – despite falling just a few goals short of her state record in that category, with a second-place 83. She finished with 130 goals, second all-time, over a combined 54 games, and a fifth-highest 240 points. She’s playing at Eastern Michigan.

Sterling Heights 2023 graduate Mikalah Lewis earned a pair of record book entries over her final two seasons. The first was for 34 goals as a junior in 2022, and she tied for third-most assists in a game on April 10 of last season with six against Center Line.

Lily Usher capped her three-year varsity career at Owosso last spring with 60 more saves than anyone over a career in MHSAA history. She tops that list with 773 over 49 games, with her 268 as a junior in 2022 added as well – and that season she also tied her single-game high with 35.

Layne Palmer had one of the busiest goalkeeping nights in MHSAA history April 21, 2023, when she saved 43 shots from Utica Ford during a 6-0 loss. The Port Huron senior’s saves remain tied for third-most for one game.

Grace Graham capped her Laingsburg career in 2021 by leading the Wolfpack to its first Regional Final appearance – and made the record book for 39 goals and also 51 total points.

Cheboygan’s Kenzie Burt is playing college basketball at Aquinas College, but she left her mark on her high school soccer program as a senior in 2023. Burt made the record book with 33 goals and 53 points total.

Jessica Peters earned Dryden’s first girls soccer entry since 2012 with 48 goals as a senior in 2023, over 19 games. She’s continuing at St. Clair County Community College.

Lydia Kruis and Litzy Ramirez capped their three-season Comstock varsity careers last year with performances among the best all-time in the sport. Among 10 record book entries, Kruis was added for 74 goals (third all-time) and 83 points (sixth) as a senior and 158 goals for her career (ninth). Her eight goals last May 17 against Buchanan tied for fourth-most in one game. Ramirez graduated with seven record book listings, with her six assists against Buchanan that game tied for third-most with her 47 for the season setting the MHSAA record. Her 86 career assists tied for ninth.

Jaidyn Veldhouse led Grandville Calvin Christian to another successful run last spring. A senior now, she made record lists with 37 goals and 52 points as the Squires finished 17-1-3. She will continue at Saginaw Valley State.

Isabella Pool’s junior season last spring included a highlight against Marshall. Although her Coldwater team took a 5-0 loss, Pool saved 39 shots – fifth-most for one match in MHSAA history.

Lutheran Westland added its second athlete to this record book, and first since 2005, as Madilyn Webb finished her three-season varsity career with 48 goals and 53 points last spring and 105 goals over her three seasons. She also scored 33 goals as a junior and seven in one game against Brighton Charyl Stockwell Academy. She’s continuing at Concordia-Ann Arbor.

PHOTO McBain Northern Michigan Christian's Jada VanNoord (20) steps into a kick during a May 1 game against Clare. (Photo courtesy of the Cadillac News.)