In Tuesday night’s state semifinal, Novi became the first team to score on Troy in its last four playoff games, beating the keeper twice in each half to cruise to a 4-1 win at Rochester Hills Stoney Creek.
Avery Fenchel, Julia Stadtherr, Riley Balconi and Laine Benchel scored for Novi (18-4-1), which advances to play Grand Blanc (26-1) in the Division 1 state championship Friday at Williamston High. Kickoff is 4 p.m.
Avery Fenchel got the scoring started for Novi 10 minutes in. The sophomore forward sprung free from a cluster of jerseys just outside the box as a lob pass came over the top, striking a ball at waist-level to beat Troy goalkeeper Cassidy Dawson.
Three minutes later, it was junior Stadtherr finding the net. Stadtherr used her speed to catch a through ball without breaking stride and tapped it past a charging Dawson to take a quick 2-0 lead over Troy (9-7-6).
Novi coach Todd Phieffer said he wanted to get several different players involved early.
"Every game, we wanted to jump on the opponent right from the start, and the last three games now, we've gotten the first two goals," Pheiffer said. "Where a lot of teams rely on one or two players, we kind of spray it around and have different opportunities for people."
Prior to Fenchel’s goal, Novi had not spent any time controlling the ball in its offensive zone. Phieffer said he wanted his team to embrace the idea that the best offense is a good defense.
"We knew that they were great on set pieces, so we wanted to limit their corner kicks, and we wanted to limit their free kicks," Phieffer said. "We've done a much better job of settling down, finding feet, and being able to build the attack out of the back."
Novi goalkeeper Callie Rich had her hands full as the last line of defense to a Troy offense that had scored 14 goals in five games entering Tuesday’s match. Rich made a diving save on Hailey Stewart a minute after Avery Fenchel’s goal to keep the 1-0 lead.
Riely Schultz was the cornerstone of Novi’s defense, captaining the middle of the field. She and junior Lauren Calhoun, who have started together as middle backs since Calhoun's freshman year, were responsible for a handful of timely clearances.
"The last three years, they've been the anchor back there on the defense," Phieffer said. "They never step off the field."
Troy started the game with momentum, favoring the left side of the field as it gained a handful of chances via crosses.
With 12:01 remaining in the first half, the plan came to fruition: Troy won a corner while attacking near the goal line and found Stewart in front on the ensuing kick to make it 2-1.
Efforts to claw back into the game were derailed by Novi's ability to win 50-50 balls and headers.
"Our girls had a very difficult time with continuing to win balls," Troy coach Dan Troccoli said. "It was just one of those days. We weren't at our best."
Novi was unable to convert a couple of opportunities to bank an insurance goal early in the second half. Leah Kiura took a corner kick that sailed past the goalmouth untouched.
Then, with 18:33 left, Novi got the bounce it needed to extend the lead. Kiura took another corner, and this one stayed inside the box to find the foot of Stadtherr. She flipped it up to Balconi for the slam-dunk header to make it 3-1. Laine Fenchel added another with 10:03 left to make it 4-1.
Grand Blanc 1, Midland 0: Senior Ashton Cassel scored the lone goal for Grand Blanc (26-1). Midland finished 18-1-6.
GIRLS SOCCER SEMIFINALS
Novi 4, Troy 1
Grand Blanc 1, Midland 0
Final: Friday, 4 p.m., at Williamston
Lansing Christian 3, Grosse Pointe Woods Liggett 0
Kalamazoo Christian 2, North Muskegon 1
Final: Friday, 1 p.m., at Williamston
Forest Hills Northern vs. Richland Gull Lake, 7 p.m., at Portage Northern
DeWitt vs. Bloomfield Hills Marian, 7 p.m., at Novi
Final: Saturday, 4 p.m., at Williamston
Warren Regina vs. Flint Powers Catholic, 6 p.m., at Howell
Grand Rapids Catholic Central vs. Freeland, 6 p.m., at Cedar Springs
Final: Saturday, 1 p.m., at Williamston