It only took one goal for Northville to keep atop the KLAA Central Division boys soccer standings.
Just five minutes into the match Tuesday with rival Novi, the host Mustangs got the game-winner from senior midfielder Nick Toupin, his sixth of the season, and it held up the rest of the way for a 1-0 Northville win.
Toupin took a 30-yard cross from the left flank, which sailed into the box, and headed it home on a short hop past Novi sophomore goalkeeper Luke McDonald, who had no chance to make the stop.
“I saw Jordan Martindale on the far flank and I was waving my hand, and he kind of made eye contact,” Toupin said. ‘He whipped it in and I got a nice, little flick and the ball flew into the back of the net, back post and I celebrated with the crowd.”
Northville, which improved to 10-1 overall and 5-0 in the KLAA Central, was coming off its first defeat of the season, a 2-1 setback Saturday at Saline in a non-leaguer.
“The Saline game I thought we played exceptionally well,” Northville coach Henry Klimes said. “They scored on a corner kick and we were forcing to try and score the equalizer and they got a 40-yard breakaway. Then we scored late in the game (by Andrew Mitchell) to make it 2-1.
“I think it sort of let the kids realize that you can lose games. We needed to lose a game, maybe. It was good it wasn’t a divisional game, so it didn’t hurt us. But it had the guys awake for the game against Novi tonight.”
The Wildcats (6-3-1, 3-2) were able to withstand Northville’s early goal and offensive onslaught during the initial 10 minutes of the match.
“I thought early on they put pressure on us and they earned that goal by putting pressure on our goalmouth,” Novi co-coach Brian O’Leary said. “I think after that we settled down nicely. I think right after the goal Luke (McDonald) made two really good saves. From that point forward we played much more organized, much better soccer, but we just couldn’t score a goal. They’re tough to score on.”
Novi ramped up its attack late in the match and nearly got a goal when Connor O’Leary’s free kick found Hernan Brarda in the box, but his that sailed right of the target and away from Northville keeper Evan Treiber.
“I told the team afterwards, we just have to capitalize on the ones we do get,” O’Leary said. “It wasn’t like we had any chances at all. We probably had six quality chances for the game, just got to score one of them. You can’t count on 20 shots. Six is what you’re getting. We’ll see what happens next time. The beauty of this game is that we get to play them next time.”
One of the reasons O’Leary said Novi was kept off the board was the play of senior defender Garret Weaver, who is commited to the University of Detroit Mercy.
“Garret Weaver needs to sit on the bench, that would help our cause probably,” O’Leary said. “The kid is fantastic. He’s is their defense. They got four guys back there, but it’s him. He stops every run. The kid is amazing. He’s the best defender I’ve seen this whole year. He just takes you out of your rhythm. He takes away stuff in the middle.”
And O’Leary said it’s hard to make adjustments against the lanky 6-foot-3 sweeper.
“It’s easy to say, ‘Let’s pull him out of the play and attack behind him,’ but you pull him out of play and he stops it,” O’Leary said. “You don’t attack behind him, he’s that good of a player. He’s a stud back there.”
Meanwhile, Klimes praised the play of Novi’s sophomore goalkeeper.
“I thought the first half we played really well,” the Northville coach said. “Their goalie (McDonald) made a couple of great stops. If it was 2-0 or 3-0, I think the game was over, but their goalie certainly kept them in the game.
“I’m pleased with the victory, but I think we needed to settle and have a little more composure and better decision making at the tail end of the game. With the adrenalin and Novi pushing hard, sending lots of stuff into the box, you could see we became a little uncomposed, which we’ve been trying to work on being a more composed team.”
The two rivals will face off again Thursday, Oct. 8 at Novi’s Meadows Stadium.
But the Mustangs were just glad to come away with the victory in round one.
“Stakes are high, huge rivarly,” Toupin said. “It was a great atmosphere. Every year it’s a battle. They say anyone can win it … and it’s true. Luckily we got the result. I’m happy. It’s good to win at home.”