BY DAN STICKRADT
Over the past 15 school years, which girls soccer program is the most successful in Division 1?
If you picked any schools from Troy, Livonia, Rochester, Plymouth, Canton, Portage, Ann Arbor, Grosse Pointe, Northville or Okemos, you would be incorrect.
That honor belongs to Novi.
The Wildcats again posted another fine season in 2016 to bring its stellar numbers over the past 1.5 decades to seven Final Four appearances.
“We always have high expectations at Novi,” noted second-year Novi coach Todd Pheiffer, who personally coached Ann Arbor Huron to a state championship in 2008. “It was the same all of those years under Brian O’Leary and nothing has changed now. We always try to field a very competitive team and hopefully can win a district and make a run.”
Like in past years, fourth-ranked Novi advanced to the Final Four this season, falling to eventual D-1 state champion Rochester Stoney Creek 2-1 in a shootout. The Wildcats came up short on the PKs in a 4-1 margin.
“This was just two great teams going at one another and unfortunately one team has to lose,” said Pheiffer of the semifinals loss. “That’s soccer. We have nothing to be ashamed of losing to a quality program like Stoney Creek on their home field.”
Novi has captured five state titles in this recent period (2005, 2006, 2007, 2010, 2011), recorded two more state semifinals appearances (2013 and 2016) and won 10 total district championships in a 15-year span. The Wildcats also advanced to regional play in 2009, 2008 and 2003.
In the five years of this successful stretch where the program did not escape the district rounds, Novi was ousted by powerhouses Northville or Brighton, two more programs with storied pasts.
“Looking at the schools in our area, it’s never easy to win a district or regional. This year all four of the schools in our regional were ranked,” said Pheiffer. “I think all of this is a testament to all of the hard-working girls we’ve had here over the years, the parents, the coaches, the administration — everyone involved. It takes a lot to build a successful program. Brian O’Leary did an incredible job building this program. I thought the girls did a great job keeping our tradition alive this season.”