Williamston — Friday's Division 1 girls soccer state final was everything it was expected to be: A defensive battle.
Through six playoff games, Grand Blanc hadn't allowed a single goal, outscoring opponents 25-0 before the title game. Novi changed that, scoring the game's only goal with 3:29 remaining to secure its first title since 2011 and sixth in program history with a 1-0 win at Williamston High.
Despite the string of success, Novi (19-5-1) entered the game as the clear underdog — a title coach Todd Pheiffer welcomed.
"All the pressure's been put on (Grand Blanc)," Pheiffer said. "This is their third (trip) in four years. Everyone said this was their trophy to win. That also helped us be a little more relaxed on the field."
Novi came close to ending Grand Blanc's scoreless streak in the first half, hitting a shot off the crossbar with 2:30 left.
Continuing that trend of putting pressure on Grand Blanc late in halves, a small collision between a Novi player and Grand Blanc goalie Madison McKay jarred the ball loose in front of the net and sophomore Avery Fenchel poked it in.
The winning goal was assisted by Michelle Jecmen and Julia Stadtherr.
"It was crazy," Fenchel said. "It was a really tight game, it was really high pressure the whole game. We ran down every ball and it finally paid off at the end of the game. My team played a wonderful game and we left everything on the field."
Fenchel leads Novi in scoring with her 22nd goal of the season being the biggest of her young career.
Novi's win avenges a 3-1 loss to Grand Blanc back on May 21.
"No fairy tale ending," Grand Blanc coach Greg Kehler said. "I thought (the seniors) did a great job of getting us here again. We just couldn't knock one in early and they got a late goal and it crushed our hopes."
Losing in the state finals for the third time in four years is a crushing blow for Grand Blanc (27-2), but Kehler believes it's experience that will aid his younger players and get them back to the big stage.
For Pheiffer and his team, he's just enjoying winning his first state championship with his alma mater.
"This is just amazing," Pheiffer said. "We walk by our stadium and we see those banners up there and the girls said they wanted to put one up there."
Now, they have.
Lansing Christian 1, Kalamazoo Christian 0: Kasey Jamieson scored the lone goal in the 26th minute to give Lansing Christian (20-3-2) its second straight title.
Kalamazoo Christian finished the season 20-3-4.
Connor Muldowney is a freelance writer.
Girls soccer finals
All games at Williamston
Novi 1, Grand Blanc 0
Lansing Christian 1, Kalamazoo Christian 0
Birmingham Marian vs. Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern, 4 p.m.
Flint Powers Catholic vs. Freeland, 1 p.m.