Northville goalkeeper Emily Maresh put up another clean sheet Wednesday night and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
The senior all-stater kept an attacking Brighton team at bay through 80 minutes of regulation and for another pair of 10-minute overtimes.
Maresh then made a critical save on the Bulldogs’ Bailey Tuczak during the first round of the shootout and the host Mustangs went on to repeat as KLAA Association girls soccer champion, 1-0, at Tom Holzer Field.
Northville (13-3-4) converted on four of its five PK attempts, while Brighton (12-3-4) went three-for-five in a battle of Division 1 state-ranked teams.
“She’s a four-year varsity player,” Northville coach Eric Brucker said of Maresh. “It’s time for her to end her high school career on a high note. Trust me, the staff and her teammates have all confidence in what she’s capable of. We make them work and she’s going to clean up all the mess for us.”
Brighton, the Lakes Conference champion and ranked No. 7 in Division 1, got the better of the scoring chance including a shot by Emma Shinsky during the second OT that Maresh tipped away and grazed the cross bar.
She also denied Shinsky on a shot with 5:29 remaining in regulation, but the Bulldogs’ best chance came at the 66-minute mark when in a bang-bang sequence of shots by Delaney Bussey and Emily Brown were turned away by Maresh and a Northville defender.
“We created more in overtime playing a little bit more aggressive,” Brighton coach Chris Stevanovic said. “We didn’t want to get to a shootout. We wanted to win the game now and we played like it. And we had a majority of the chances in overtime, I thought. But again, you’ve got to put the ball in the back of the net.”
In the shootout, Northville converted on its first three PKs – Maddy Westenberg, Kelsey Estes and Abby Henzi.
After Maresh stopped Tuczak’s attempt, the Bulldogs responded with three in a row of its own by Madison Wiljanen, Kasey Codd and McKenna Graham.
But Northville missed its fourth attempt, but converted on its fifth by Alissa Moore. The next Brighton PK then sailed high over the bar ending the match.
It all added up to frustrating night offensively for Brighton, which also got a clean sheet for 100 minutes by junior goalie Madison Gould.
“We had our chances, multiple chances,” Stevanovic said. “I tell you what, Northville has arguably the best goalkeeper in the state. Emily Maresh is extremely good and she proved it. It’s one of those game. Both of us teams don’t play on (synthetic) turf much, but we need to get used to it with districts coming up. We had our chances, but yes, this is what the playoffs and championship time is all about. You got to finish your chances.”
Northville’s backline of defense had to keep an eye on Brighton’s dangerous trio of forwards led by senior Meghan Healy.
“Based on how I saw them (Brighton) approach the first half we talked at halftime and made a couple of adjustments,” Brucker said. “We knew they were going to come and put pressure through the middle, which is what they did. We just had to be patient. We couldn’t afford to lunge. We kept her (Healy) from getting too close to us. Most of those shots were from distance and Emily takes care of most of those.”
And it was a quality win for the defending MHSAA Division 1 champion Mustangs, who came into the match ranked No. 10.
“Just looking at records and common opponents we knew this was going to be close,” said Brucker, whose team repeated this season as Central Division, Kensington Conference and Association champions. “I think this was the best front-to-back competition we played. We don’t play pretty soccer, but we seem to be finding a way to make it happen. Great team effort. Again, we were able to get everybody in that wasn’t completely, medically unable to play. It wasn’t pretty. It was 0-0s, but I’ve said from the beginning of the year we have the best goalkeeper in the state and she came up big in that round of PKs.”
HARTLAND 3, NOVI 1: On May 19, the visiting Eagles (14-2-3) tallied all three goals during the opening half to beat the Wildcats (9-3-4) in a KLAA consolation crossover match at Meadows Stadium.
“Hartland came out and played hard,” Novi interim coach Todd Pheiffer said. “They were very organized and that made them really good. They were legitimate.”
After being outshot 5-0 in the opening half, Pheiffer’s team regrouped and changed formations while outshooting the Eagles 4-3 in the second half as Amanda Minissale scored on an unassisted free kick.
Novi goalkeeper Aastha Dharia made four saves in the loss.
NOVI 2, CHURCHILL 1: On May 14, the host Wildcats (9-2-4) downed KLAA South Division runner-up Livonia Churchill at Meadows Stadium.