Novi advances past Livonia Stevenson in penalty kicks for second time in three years
Novi – Two years ago, Novi needed penalty kicks to get past Livonia Stevenson in the district semifinals in a game that turned out to be an instant classic.
Fast forward to Tuesday night, and once again the two teams needed more than 80 minutes of regulation and 20 minutes of overtime to decide who advances in the state tournament, this time in the playoff opener.
Two saves late in the shootout by Tommy McMaster and the final penalty kick goal from Ian Hanley proved to be the difference as Novi once again came away with a shootout win over Livonia Stevenson, beating the Spartans 2-1 (8-7 in penalties).
After watching McMaster turn away the final shot he would face, Hanley said that he got the chance to end the game, which is what he had been hoping for, and added that while watching his teammates score eight goals during the shootout, he was more focused on what he needed to do more than anything.
“Basically, I was thinking ‘Thank God’, because I had a chance to end it,” he said. “I was honestly surprised the PKs went that far.
“I kind of just worried about my shot and how I’m going to execute, but I obviously paid attention to their shots.”
After McMaster watched all of regulation and overtime from the bench, he entered the game for the first time in the shootout, and came up big in the end, stopping two of the final three shots by Stevenson in the penalty kicks.
As the game drew closer to heading to penalty kicks, McMaster said he began warming up, knowing that he would likely be in goal because of track record against penalties and his 6-foot-2 frame, taking over for starting netminder, Sam Sheeran, who stands at 5-9 according to head coach Brian O’Leary.
“Sam and I have played and alternated all season long,” McMaster said. “I was warming up on the bench before I went in, so I wasn’t really cold, but I hadn’t played the whole game, but I knew just from practice that I was a little lengthier and better against PKs, so we knew from the get go that I was going to be taking them.”
After Stevenson took a 1-0 lead in the first half on a goal by Hunter Mullett, Novi turned up the pressure, having several scoring chances throughout the remainder of the first half and much of the second half, but Stevenson managed to keep Novi off the board through the first 60 minutes of the game.
But with just over 15 minutes left to play, Novi’s Tony Asimadu dribbled through a group of Stevenson defenders before being taken down in the box, drawing a foul, which would set up a penalty kick goal by senior midfielder Ryan Kobakof to knot the game at 1-1.
O’Leary said that even with the Wildcats trailing 1-0, he felt his team was playing well, so Novi never made any changes and stuck to the game plan with the hope that it would finally find the back of the net.
“I was saying to my assistant coaches right when they (Stevenson) scored, ‘Classic high school soccer’,” he said. “We had two golden opportunities, we had an open net to shoot at and we missed and those can come back to haunt you a lot. But I thought at a certain point when they were winning 1-0, but really we were playing very well. It wasn’t one of those things where I was worried that they were taking it to us and we were just holding on, but I thought we were playing really well, so we just stuck with what we were doing, we really didn’t make any changes there.”
Novi now advances to the district semifinals, where the Wildcats will face Novi Detroit Catholic Central, which defeated Walled Lake Western 3-0 on Tuesday, on Thursday at Novi at 7:00 pm.