'Unexpected' Novi Takes Home Title Again

June 15, 2018

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

WILLIAMSTON – The first unexpected development in the eyes of many was that the game was about to go into overtime. 

The next unexpected development was that it didn’t. 

Finally, the last unexpected development was that the team many figured would take home the runner-up trophy this time emerged as champion once again. 

Such was the story of the 2018 MHSAA Division 1 girls soccer championship game at Williamston High School. 

A heavy favorite to win its first championship after three prior losses in the title game, it instead was more Finals heartbreak for Grand Blanc, which saw perennial power Novi add its sixth girls soccer title trophy since 2005 with a 1-0 victory over the Bobcats.

Sophomore Avery Fenchel was the hero for the Wildcats (19-5-1), as she scored the only goal of the game with 3:29 remaining after she took advantage of a miscommunication by Grand Blanc defenders inside their goal box.

What seemed like a routine ball in front of the goal was botched by the Bobcats, and Fenchel took advantage by firing the ball into the open net to send her team into a wild celebration and Grand Blanc players to the ground in dejection. 

“I was just running after it, and it just went into the back of the goal,” Fenchel said. “I just turned around and ran towards my team. I was so excited.”

With seven players signed or committed to Division I college programs, many felt Grand Blanc would have the game well in hand by the time the waning minutes of regulation rolled around. 

But Novi’s defense was firm throughout, and overtime seemed imminent before Fenchel’s goal signaled a much sooner ending. 

Grand Blanc entered the playoffs after winning the Kensington Lakes Activities Association Gold championship, while Novi finished third in the league. Novi lost to Grand Blanc in their regular-season meeting, 3-1, prompting some adjustments heading into the rematch. 

“We kept having our outside forwards drop down more,” Novi head coach Todd Pheiffer said. “Their forwards never go back, and their defenders never really push up. It was finding that space in between the defense and midfielders.

“One thing we worked on at practice is whenever we are defending, it looks like a 4-5-1 (formation). When we are on the attack, it’s a 4-3-3. Just transitioning between those formations. It’s the first time we’ve ever done it, and we worked on it in practice the past two days. The girls did a great job.” 

Grand Blanc ended up holding a 13-10 edge in shots, but many were wayward of the goal and the Bobcats had trouble in general getting serious scoring chances against Novi’s defense. 

Each team hit a crossbar during the game, but the one miscue by Grand Blanc in the final minutes turned out to be the difference.

“I feel terrible for them,” Grand Blanc head coach Greg Kehler said. “It was just a little miscommunication back there on really a harmless ball between our defenders and goalkeeper. But that is just one play in an 80-minute game. We had our chances, but we didn’t take advantage of them to get that lead and (not) have a situation like that arise.”

Each team is filled with non-senior starters and contributors, so a rematch in next year’s playoffs could be in the forecast. 

But for the present time, Novi relished being in the rare role of underdog.

“The girls had a little chip on their shoulder because the press said the entire week that this trophy was Grand Blanc’s,” Pheiffer said. “It was theirs. Everyone was picking against us, and that’s how this whole season has been. This has been a year of redemption for these girls.”

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: With just over three minutes to play, Novi's Avery Fenchel picks up a loose ball in front of the goal and scores the only goal of the Division 1 Girls Soccer Final.

PHOTOS: (Top) Novi’s Julia Stadtherr (20) embraces teammate Avery Fenchel after the latter’s goal gave her team the lead in Friday’s Division 1 Final. (Middle) Grand Blanc’s Samantha Lewis (8) gets her head on the ball just above Fenchel.

Be the Referee: Soccer Offsides or Goal?

By Paige Winne
MHSAA Marketing & Social Media Coordinator

May 23, 2023

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 – Soccer Offsides or Goal? - Listen

Today we’re on the soccer field for another You Make the Call.

Team A has a throw-in near midfield. Team A’s No. 9 is clearly in an offside position when the throw-in comes directly to her. She collects the ball and kicks it past the keeper and into the goal. What’s the call?

Should the referee:

► Award an indirect free kick to Team B?

► Award a goal kick to Team B?

► Award a re-take of the throw-in to Team A?

► Award a goal to Team A?

If you said, "Award a goal to Team A" … you are correct, despite the goal-scorer being in a clear offsides position.

The soccer rulebook states that a player shall not be penalized for offsides if she receives the ball directly from a goal kick, corner kick or throw-in. It’s a legal play – and counts as a goal.

Previous Editions:

May 16: Track & Field Exchange Zones - Listen
May 9: Girls Lacrosse Self-Start - Listen
May 2: Baseball/Softball Overthrow - Listen
April 25: Fifth-Quarter/Third-Half Rule - Listen
April 18: Soccer Referee in Play? - Listen
April 11: Softball Strikeout - Listen
March 14: Basketball Instant Replay - Listen
March 7: Hockey Overtime - Listen
Feb. 28: Baker Bowling - Listen
Feb. 21: Ski Finish - Listen
Feb. 14: Swimming Touchpads - Listen
Feb. 7: In or Out-of-Bounds in Wrestling - Listen
Jan. 31: Over the Back - Listen
Jan. 24: Competitive Cheer Judges - Listen
Jan. 17: More Lines - Listen
Jan. 10: On the Line - Listen
Jan. 3: Basketball Measurements - Listen
Dec. 13: Pregame Dunks - Listen
Dec. 6: Gymnastics Judges - Listen
Nov. 22: Football Finals Replay - Listen
Nov. 15: Back Row Illegal Blocker - Listen
Nov. 8: Swim Turn Judges - Listen
Nov. 1: Soccer Referee Jersey Colors - Listen
Oct. 25: Cross Country Tie-Breaker - Listen
Oct. 18: Soccer Shootouts - Listen
Oct. 11: Safety in End ZoneListen
Oct. 4: Football Overtime Penalty - Listen
Sept. 27: Kickoff Goal - Listen
Sept. 20: Soccer Timing - Listen
Sept. 13: Volleyball Replays - Listen
Sept. 6: Switching Sides - Listen
Aug. 30: Play Clock - Listen
Aug. 23: Intentional Grounding Change
- Listen

PHOTO: An official raises his flag during this spring's Trenton/Pontiac Notre Dame Prep game. (Photo by Chris Mudd/National Photo Scout.)