No. 15-ranked Waterford Mott finally gets over Walled Lake Northern hump with 2OT win in LVC tourney semis, gets chance to write a new ending to story
WATERFORD — When you’ve been the supporting actor in the drama for long enough, sometimes it’s hard to believe you can step into the main character’s role.
After second-place finishes to rival Walled Lake Northern seemingly year after year, and losing a chance to share the regular-season title with South Lyon just four days earlier, the Corsairs of Waterford Mott could’ve just settled into their accustomed role of the second fiddle.
Instead, the No. 15-ranked Corsairs decided they wanted to write in a bit of a plot twist, knocking off Northern 2-0 in double overtime in Thursday’s Lakes Valley Conference girls soccer tournament semifinal.
It gives them a chance to write a whole new ending on Saturday, when they take on South Lyon for the second time in six days, playing for the LVC tournament title.
“It’s very important. Just coming from that loss, to get second in the league, this is sort of a redemption for us. It’s a way for us to show we’re the better team, and we’re here to play,” said junior goalkeeper Savannah Moss, who recorded her 10th shutout of the season Thursday. “I was so happy. It’s such a relief to have it off your back, to watch your team strive for that, and it’s just honestly the best feeling. It’s just amazing.”
The two league losses for the Corsairs (14-3-1) were both by 1-0 margins, to South Lyon and to Northern. It was looking like another of those “oh-so-close” nights against the Knights on Thursday, when the two teams were scoreless through 80 minutes of regulation, and the first 10-minute overtime period.
“I have to hand it to my girls tonight. They had to dig really deep,” Mott coach Evan Baker said, noting that his squad was missing three key players for an academic trip that was scheduled before districts were moved back a week by the MHSAA, forcing the LVC tournament to be played a week earlier than expected.
“They lost on Monday a game that was for the regular-season championship, and then to turn around and to have to come back in this quickly and play a team of that caliber, who has had their number for several years now, I believe in this team more than anyone in this world, and I even had to ask the question would they be able to give the effort that it needs on Thursday. They answered the bell, for sure. Every kid I had on the bench got in tonight, whether it was someone that went out and played three minutes, and gave someone the rest they needed — I told them at the time, they didn’t even know how important that rest was going to be, not knowing it was going to go to double overtime, or anything. Everybody gave everything they had.”
Less than two minutes into the second OT, Katelyn Aiello headed in the go-ahead goal off a throw-in by Kendra Lewis. Just 43 seconds later, Claire Breault made it a 2-0 game when she shook loose from the defense up the middle, and chipped the ball just wide of the diving Northern goalkeeper, tucking it just inside the right post with 7:40 to play.
Up until the point Aiello’s header was backspinning in mid-air, though, headed for the upper left corner, it still seemed like Northern might find a way to pull a rabbit out of the hat yet again.
“You don’t believe it’s going to go in. I mean, the last game we played them, we had chance after chance after chance. We hit the crossbar. It was 0-0 until five minutes left, and then they got a penalty kick,” Baker admitted. “Even against South Lyon last game, we hit the crossbar, we had two girls in behind the defense, and you get to that point where, yeah, you don’t think it’s going to go in. In your heart, you believe in your girls, but you just don’t know. We finished second place in the league four out of the last five years, and it’s always been to them — until this year, being to South Lyon — and it just starts to feel like that second-place story is writing itself.
“Obviously, we still have to take care of business on Saturday, but it’s so cool for the girls to get over that hump. And now, they have to believe they can do anything at this point.”
The Knights (8-5-3) almost did pull one out of their hats, narrowly missing grabbing the momentum just two minutes into the first overtime, off a corner kick.
While that ball was spinning in mid-air, seemingly destined for the upper right corner, Moss was getting in position to scoop it out of harm’s way.
“I saw it the whole time while it was coming through,” Moss said. “I didn’t know if I was going to get there or not, but I got a piece of it.”
Baker, who coaches goaltenders for both Mott and Concordia University, couldn’t give his keeper enough praise.
“Didn’t get called on a whole lot, but when she did get called on, she was incredible. That kid has faced a ton of adversity, and kept grinding and working to get to this point. So she deserves that moment, for sure,” he said. “She really had to come all the way around behind it, otherwise she’d have deflected it into the goal. … That’s not something you train, getting all the way around behind it, and kind of scooping it. It’s such a rare situation, so having the presence of mind to make that save, and the improvisation to make that save was incredible.”
In the moment, teammate Ryann Jergovich ran over to hug Moss, before the keeper gestured that the ball was still in play on the far side of the field. Once it cleared midfield, Baker yelled out at his keeper, “I have no words for that one.”
The Corsairs didn’t immediately capitalize on the momentum swing, but at least kept the Knights from getting it for themselves. Once Mott scored, though, momentum was clearly on their side.
“Whoever scores first in overtime has a huge advantage, and they had to move their marking back forward to try to get the goal back, which freed up Claire (Breault),” Baker said. “Andie (Wolfe) did an incredible job on Claire today. She’s a phenomenal defender, and once she got pulled out of that role, Claire was kind of able to get free a little bit, and get us that goal that sealed it.”
The Knights will play in the consolation bracket of Saturday’s tournament, but Baker still gave his team’s nemesis all the plaudits he could.
“Credit to Northern. They’re an awesome team, and we’ve had an incredible rivalry with them, going back and forth with them for the last couple of years. I say back and forth, and what I actually mean is that we’ve been so close so many times, and they always seem to emerge with it,” Baker said. “What Drew (Drummond, the Northern coach) has done with that program is incredible, going undefeated last year, and they’re dealing with a bunch of injuries right now, so to come out and to manage to make it through 100 minutes of soccer with that squad, they should be incredibly proud of themselves, and they’re going to make some noise in the playoffs, for sure.”