STILLWATER – It didn’t matter whether they came to the ball or the ball came to them – Northville’s players knew what to do Thursday night.
With goals via different situations, second-seeded Northville defeated top-seeded Fort Ann 2-1 to win the Class D final of the Section II girls’ soccer tournament at Stillwater High School.
It was the Falcons’ first Section II title since 2019. They will play Section IX’s Mount Academy in a regional final at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5 at Newburgh Free Academy.
It was a fairly even game before a Northville player got taken down in the box. With 27:04 left in the first half, freshman striker Leah Valovic struck the penalty kick into the left side of the net for a 1-0 Northville lead.
“At first I was really nervous when I had to take the PK shot, but I was also confident in myself because I had a feeling I knew I was going to make it,” said Valovic, who began last season as a defender, before being moved to midfield and now to the front line. “Because when it comes to times like that, I feel like I’m good with remaining calm and just finishing the ball.”
Thanks to winning most of the 50-50 balls until about the last six minutes of the first half, Northville (12-5-1 overall) kept the 1-0 lead at halftime. Fort Ann’s late-first-half stretch was foreshadowing, however, as the Cardinals (10-5-3) controlled the action to begin the second half.
Fort Ann tied it with 30:26 left when eighth-grader Olivia Winchell’s corner kick bounced off a Northville defender and in.
Northville played a lot more defense in the second half, but made the most of one of its offensive flurries. The ball bounced out to senior midfielder Ciara Thompson, who booted a long shot perfectly into the upper left part of the net with 15:05 remaining.
“I saw the ball coming right up to the top, and that’s usually where I’m sitting,” Thompson said. “So I saw the keeper, and I looked up and I knew I had to get this in because we have to get the win. I didn’t think about it too much and just hit it and knew it was going to go in as soon as I hit it.”
From there, it was just up to Northville to keep a pressing Fort Ann team off the scoreboard.
“When we put that second goal in,” Northville coach Doug Hammons said, “we had to decide how do we play [then], conservative or keep pushing forward? We decided to play conservative and pull back. It was definitely beneficial, strategy-wise.”
Hammons showed some good bursts of speed, himself. The first time was when he sprinted down the sideline in the final seconds before joining his team on the field. The next was when he sprinted with the championship plaque in his hands toward the Northville crowd.
“Unbelievable emotions at this point,” Hammons said. “So incredibly proud of this group of girls. We persevered through a lot this season, and I’m just so proud of the work put in by all of the team members. Just to hold that sectional title once again and give it to our home town, bring that title home.”
It was also a special victory for Thompson.
“I couldn’t play last year, so just to bounce back and get this win really means a lot to me and the team. I suffered two knee injuries and had to get two knee surgeries. We worked so hard for this as a team. We deserved this win and we got it,” Thompson said.
Halftime score: Northville, 1-0. Northville scoring: Valovic 1-0, Thompson 1-0. Fort Ann scoring: Winchell 1-0. Goalies: Northville, Forsey, 2 saves. Fort Ann, Wright, 7 saves.
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Categories: -Sports, High School Sports, Sports