By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Mallory Weber has seen plenty of creative defenses during her four seasons on Northville’s varsity soccer team.
Most of the time, she’s shadowed by two defenders. Sometimes, she’ll draw three. But the most memorable effort came from just one defender last season against rival Novi.
“She followed me everywhere. I went out of bounds, she followed me out of bounds,” Weber remembered Wednesday. “It was pretty quick. I’d stop. She’d stop. She was like on a leash with me.”
Welcome to life as a two-time all-state forward who next season will play for the reigning Big Ten regular-season champion, and this week receives a Second Half High 5 for helping key her team's outstanding start.
Northville is 5-0-2 coming off Tuesday’s 8-0 win over South Lyon, in which Weber scored two goals and had an assist to push her season totals to nine and five, respectively.
She didn’t score in last week’s win over Novi – the Mustangs' first over the Wildcats since 2009 – but that hardly means she didn’t factor in what might be considered the team’s best victory of the last two seasons. Novi had won 40 straight games, including last season’s MHSAA Division 1 Final.
“Novi had her double-teamed at all times and sometimes triple-teamed. This obviously opens up the field for others to execute,” Northville coach Eric Brucker said. “Mallory is the workhorse and on-field leader. Other coaches within our league have pulled Mallory aside after postgame handshakes to voice their admiration for her on-the-field direction.
“She is a great example of trying to do the most for her team – every game, all 80 minutes. The players around her feed off her energy.”
Extra attention from opponents became noticeable to her last season, but didn’t slow Weber as she earned a second-straight all-state first-team selection. She’s picked up some moves to create her own space – usually, she’ll play the ball back, spin off and try to come back to the ball in an effort to gain a few steps.
But she also realizes how much opponents are changing their defenses to account for her – and how much that can benefit a Mustangs team that returned nearly intact from a year ago.
With little opportunity to look up when she got the ball against Novi, Weber was able to one-touch pass to teammates because they’ve grown accustomed to where each other will be positioned.
Among those getting plenty of great looks up front is sophomore Jamie Cheslik, who has six goals and seven assists and scored the game-winner against Novi. Brucker called her the “catalyst,” another who creates plenty of havoc and scoring opportunities.
Weber was not considered that player yet when she got serious about soccer at age 10. She’d played in recreational leagues, but didn’t make the top team in her club that first season – which paid off in the long run because of how hard she worked to become better. But the middle of the next season, she was promoted. And she joined the Mustangs' top team in her first season of high school.
Although Northville has two MHSAA championship game appearances since 2004, all three of Weber’s seasons have ended with losses in arguably the toughest District in the state (which this season includes three teams currently ranked among the top seven in Division 1).
But the Novi win could be the spark for a run Weber has been waiting to lead.
“It’s what I’ve been waiting for each year. We’re on the same page, and it would be great to go out like that on a good note, and good for the program,” Weber said. “We’ve finally come together, and that (win) gave us the confidence we’ll need in the playoffs.”
Click for more about Weber and this week's other High 5s.
PHOTO: Northville's Mallory Weber (14) works the ball upfield while being shadowed by a defender. (Photo courtesy of Shelly Bush Photography.)
Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.
Below is this week's segment – Feet Rule on Soccer Throw-In - Listen
In basketball, when a player is inbounding the ball, his or her feet have to be behind the line when passing the ball. Their feet can’t be touching the line.
But in soccer, a player just has to be on the line to complete a throw-in – even if their heels are both barely touching the line and the majority of their body is in the field of play.
It is considered a legal soccer throw-in if any part of both feet is either touching the line or behind the line, including if the player does a somersault or front-flip style throw-in. As long as they flip and land with both feet on or behind the line and throw the ball – it’s a legal throw-in.