The fact that it took 100 minutes – and then some – to decide a winner in Tuesday’s Division 1 semi-final between Rochester Stoney Creek and Novi surprised absolutely no one.
Both teams waged a defensive battle for much of regulation, and went 65 minutes before either team could muster a shot on net. But there are no defenders once a match goes to a shootout, and that’s why Stoney Creek is advancing to Friday’s state championship game at Michigan State University.
The Cougars connected on all four of their shootout attempts, with Taylor Paradoski, Emily Solek, Lyndsey Shupbach and Amanda Harvey putting the ball in the net. Even though Novi scored one shootout goal against the Cougars’ Gina Cerny, another attempt hit the post and she punched away Katrina Koomen’s attempt.
“I just went in there thinking I’ll go in there, I can do this, I got this,” Cerny said. “I see the way they turn their foot and I watched their eyes and during the game and I see how they shoot, I put it all together and I took my best guess.”
The match ended after Harvey, shooting fourth in the rotation, went low right and put it just inside the post.
“I just walked up to it, and calmed down, and hit it where I always hit it and it went in,” she said.
The Cougars were on path toward a championship last year, being top-ranked all season, but were upset by Grand Blanc in the semi-finals, so this was a big relief for Harvey, a junior defender.
“It feels great, we’ve come so far and we were the underdogs,” she said. “It’s just great to make it six games farther than we were supposed to.”
Neither team built up any sort of offensive momentum through much of the contest, as Novi Coach Todd Pheiffer said “both teams were playing not to lose,” and he challenged his Wildcats to play the second half with more intensity. As a result, Novi struck first as freshman Lexi Whalen booted a high, arcing shot from the numerals 20 yards away which got past Cerny inside the far post in the 66th minute.
Stoney Creek got the equalizer with five minutes to play, converting a corner kick. After Solek sent it to the goal box, Amelia Kuntzman had the first crack at it, but the ball bounded off of a defender and Paradoski got to the ball, found a seam, and sent it up under the crossbar.
Both overtimes were scoreless. Novi had the offensive pressure in the first 10-minute session but could not convert, and Stoney Creek did likewise, possessing the ball in much of the second extra period.
Now, the Cougars will play for a state championship at 4 p.m. Friday afternoon.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and you’ve got to take advantage of it – that was kind of our motto,” Coach Bryan Mittelstadt said. “We need to focus on keeping our energy up, staying healthy, keeping the mentality up that they can go even further because they want that state championship. Their personality is going back to loving the game and when it’s a part of your life and you really love it, you’ll do whatever you can to keep playing it.”