East Lansing — For a team that fancies itself as the one with the target on their back, Novi sure had a lot of snipers Saturday.
Novi set a record for most goals in a Division 1 or Class A girls soccer state final, topping Plymouth 5-0 in a matchup of Kensington Lakes Activities Association West Division teams at Michigan State’s DeMartin Stadium.
The victory gave Novi its second straight state championship and seventh in program history.
Jessie Bendyk scored twice, and Avery Fenchel, Lexi Whalen and Julia Stadtherr added goals for Novi (28-0-1), ranked by TopDrawerSoccer.com as the nation’s top team after graduating 10 seniors from last season.
“We kept saying, we are not the same team as last year,” Novi coach Todd Pheiffer said. “We have a good core coming back, some great senior leadership, but we are a different team. This is about you guys winning your championship, it’s not about defending last year’s championship.
“This is now your opportunity.”
Pheiffer said Novi took perceived slights in various early-season rankings as fuel and kept winning. But the top national ranking changed the tone of the season, Pheiffer said.
“At that point it was like, now we have the target on our back, and it’s our job to step on the field every day,” Pheiffer said.
Novi posted its 23rd shutout, surrendering eight goals all season despite losing starting goalkeeper Abbie Pheiffer to an injury in the 19th game.
Freshman Sammy Maday stepped up from the junior varsity team after a three-year hiatus from goalkeeping. She made two saves Saturday, and Abbie Pheiffer returned for the final four minutes, finishing the shutout.
“Sammy stepped up for us and gained confidence, she did a great job,” said Fenchel, a junior Ball State commit. “It was a surprise to all of us to see Abbie back in there, but it was really exciting.”
Fenchel opened the scoring in the 20th minute, cuting back in front of a defender and then back again the other way around Eastern Michigan-bound goalkeeper Becca Przybylo for the goal.
With 2:40 until halftime, Whalen made a nifty move around the defense and then beat Przybylo high for a 2-0 lead.
In the second half, Michelle Jecmen slithered a pass through the defense for Stadtherr’s goal. Stadtherr then assisted on both of Bendyk’s goals to set the record.
The victory was the third for Novi against KLAA West runner-up Plymouth (19-5-1), which made dramatic comebacks against Canton and Troy during the postseason for coach Jeff Neschich.
The previous two Novi wins against Plymouth were by one- and two-goal margins.
“I just think it was, honestly, being in this atmosphere,” Ferris State-bound Bendyk said of the offensive explosion. “We just wanted to win this not only for ourselves, not only for Todd our coach, but for the community.
“So it’s a good feeling.”
Matt Schoch is a freelance writer.