Team of the Month: Grosse Pointe North Girls Soccer

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

June 28, 2023

The Grosse Pointe North girls soccer team won the Division 2 title this month after entering the postseason with just four wins. The Norsemen then became the first eventual champion to advance to a Final with single-digit victories – reaching 10 with a 3-2 shootout clincher over East Grand Rapids at Michigan State’s DeMartin Stadium.

There wasn’t a lot about GPN’s awe-inspiring run that fit the usual template – and no defining “aha” moment when coach Olivia Dallaire knew she had a champion in the making. Instead, the whole season was a building process – but with a clear turning point in the Regional Semifinal.

Coming out of a strong Macomb Area Conference Red, GPN had entered its District the second seed despite its overall record, and with confidence it could win that bracket. But now the Norsemen were facing No. 2-ranked Bloomfield Hills Marian (15-1-2), a nine-time Finals champion, and trailed 2-0 at halftime.

“That (second) half of that game is the turning point the girls still now talk about,” Dallaire said. “We were challenging them that winning the District was not enough; we have more that we can give. I think we came out in the first game of the region satisfied with getting that District title. We were hard on them at halftime. I think they were shell-shocked by Marian, a very good program, and just a little nervous and complacent.”

But Grosse Pointe North – the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” for June – came back to take Marian to a shootout in an eventual 3-2 win, then defeated No. 6 Trenton in the Regional Final and No. 10 Linden in the Semifinal before edging the No. 4 Pioneers at MSU.

A GPN championship run had a built-in storyline already with Dallaire, who as a junior played on the 2008 Norsemen team that finished Division 1 runner-up before playing her college soccer on the field at MSU where she coached this year’s team to the school’s first championship in the sport.

But of course the uncharted path made for even more. The Norsemen were outscored by a combined 21-16 during the regular season, but outscored six playoff opponents by a combined 11-5 (counting two goals that came with winning those shootouts.)

“I don’t know if I had one defining moment where I felt like we could go all the way and win the whole thing, just because we were challenged every step of the way,” Dallaire said. “Our game against Marian in the Regional Semifinal definitely was a big win and confidence booster for the girls and the coaches. Other than that, just when we got to the state Semifinal game, once we got that win (we) felt anything could happen in the final game. We really had to take one at a time.”

Dallaire also had played on North’s 2008 Class A girls basketball championship team and had plenty of experience with the specialness that goes with reaching a season’s final week. Senior Mia Stephanoff had just come off helping the girls basketball team to the Division 1 Quarterfinals this winter and could echo those sentiments. Stephanoff, by the way, scored the championship-clinching shootout goal against EGR.

GPN entered May with a 3-4-2 record, and after another loss ran off five straight draws. But throughout those ups, downs and lateral advances, Dallaire reminded her team their goal was to peak at the end of month – even if no one would have anticipated the team would climb that high.

“The girls were getting frustrated not seeing the success with the wins, and it was a constant weekly thing we had to remind them that as long as we were improving we were not as a coaching staff concerned about the wins and losses,” she said. “I think at some point they started to believe in that towards the end of our regular season, and when we got results against (Division 1 No.  12) Eisenhower and Anchor Bay and those types of teams … that was a good start to that playoff run.”

Past Teams of the Month, 2022-23

May: Gaylord softball - Report
Saugatuck girls soccer - Report
Croswell-Lexington competitive cheer - Report
Hart girls & boys basketball - Report
Taylor Trillium Academy girls bowling - Report
Byron Center hockey - Report
Martin football - Report
Gladwin volleyball - Report
Negaunee girls tennis - Report