Coming in with almost as many tied contests this season as wins, Novi was looking at another possible draw today with a halftime score of 1-1 against defending Division 1 state champ Saline.
But an early second half breakaway goal by Novi’s Jessica Halmaghi snapped the deadlock before teammate Chloe Allen sealed it with a penalty kick goal late for a 3-1 win over the visiting Hornets.
“The ties are one thing the girls have grown from,” said Novi coach Todd Pheiffer. “We’ve tied some very good teams this season, and in those games we were winning 1-0. So we’ve been pushing on our girls that we have to play a full 80 minutes. We can’t be satisfied being up 1-0 where you’re playing good teams and anything can happen — a free kick, a corner kick, a breakaway. So we need to keep pressing and getting those opportunities.”
This time Saline (8-4-1, ranked No. 6) scored first to put the Wildcats (8-1-5) in a hole. At the 16:07 mark of the first half, Allison Luurtsema made a goal off the rebound of Sydney Jarvela’s corner kick that hit the crossbar.
“Usually we’re a slow team to start, but today was the best first five minutes we’ve played,” Pheiffer said. “We went at them and had good opportunities. But then we settled down and gave up their goal. We talked at halftime about giving up that first goal.
“This is the second time we’ve been behind and won. So this is a great team win. Every time we step on the field we want to be better than the last game we played, and I think that’s what we accomplished today.
“The big thing is that we have 25 players on our roster, and we got all 21 players that are healthy into the game. That means we can count on anybody to do anything. We put players in different positions today to fill different roles, because we know what a great team Saline is. We know once we reach the state tournament we have to change the way we play depending on who we play on any given day. This is why we go look to play the best nonconference teams out there.”
Halmaghi’s goal came after a long pass by Julia Stadtherr from beyond midfield that allowed Halmaghi to dribble past the defense. She had Allen cutting to the net, forcing the Saline goalie to focus on two players, before Halmaghi buried the shot.
Halmaghi got behind the defense again with less than 12 minutes remaining and was tackled. That resulted in Allen’s free kick, which she nailed into the top right corner of the net from about 13 yards out.
“I missed the last free kick I took in our last game, so I really wanted to redeem myself,” Allen said. “I walk straight back (when setting up) so I just watched where the goalie went and I just adjusted my body.”
A win is always preferred, but Saline coach Dana Rosselot said playing a tough program like Novi (ranked No. 14) is good preparation for the postseason.
“I think we feel really good about where we’re at, even though today wasn’t our day,” Rosselot said. “We gave up far too many easy opportunities through the back. And we created plenty but couldn’t finish. That happens. But this is a good test a couple weeks out from the postseason.”