What a difference a year makes.
The Northville girls lacrosse team went from worst in 2014 to first Wednesday night in the Kensington Conference following a 10-5 triumph over host Novi.
After going 1-13 a year ago, the Mustangs improved to an astounding 13-0 overall in 2015 while capturing the crown outright with a 6-0 conference record.
The victory also puts Northville in the KLAA Association championship game beginning 7 p.m. Monday, May 11 most likely against Hartland, which is currently leading the Lakes Conference.
Even Northville first-year coach Amanda Asher would be the first to admit that she’d never envision a 13-0 start.
“A lot of people have asked me that,” Asher said. “And thought we would have a successful season. I thought we’d be above .500, but our girls have a lot of heart. And we have a lot of seniors. And when you have a lot of seniors you can perform well.”
Novi (10-2, 4-2), meanwhile, had visions of sharing the conference title and carried a 4-3 lead through the first 18:48 of the first half on three consecutive goals by senior Morgan Statetzny, along with a single tally from junior Gina Salemi. (Willow Guenther and Jenna Mikkelsen each had assists.)
But Northville took a 6-4 lead into intermission getting two goals from Sarah Chase and one goal apiece from Liz Hansell, Audrey Tatge, Grace Guibord and Erin Scott. (Assists went to Guibord, Tatge and Alethia Blough).
When Salemi scored with 18:57 to play in the second half, Novi pulled within 6-5 before the Mustangs’ defense clamped down while closing out match with four unanswered goals.
Chase answered just 11 seconds later with a goal. Hansell then scored with 9:56 left from Blough. Guibord followed two two more (with Tatge assisting on the final goal).
“It was an emotionally charged game and we just stayed intense,” Asher said. “We knew we saw the end-goal and we just played through. We doubled in transition, and that really helped us pressure all the time up.”
The Wildcats were held scoreless over the final 18:57 as Northville goalie Gabby Goree made eight saves.
“I think the girls got frustrated, it’s always an emotional game when you’re facing Northville,” Novi first-year coach Amy Kilgore said. “It’s a hometown rivalry and the girls are always highly and emotionally charged for this kind of game.
“We absolutely need to improve the intensity of our practice where we practice in a game-like scenario. That’s number one mission tomorrow is to improve game intensity. We’re ready for the next challenge ahead of us.”
Down the stretch, Northville was able to use the clock and keep possession as they buzzed around Novi goalie Mariah Smythe.
“They have some incredibly skilled players and they have great athleticism,” Kilgore said of the Mustangs. “Their team speed on offense was very impressive and hard to keep up for us at times.”
But Kilgore is confident her squad will bounce back quickly from the loss.
“I think our senior leaders have been absolutely fabulous in such a positive fashion,” she said. “Every girl is completely unselfish in this group.”
Northville’s unlikely quest for perfection continues Saturday in the Ladywood Invitational tournament.
“We just checked our one goal off as being conference champions,” Asher said. “So we have to keep playing as a team and together. Nothing can stop us if we play together.”