Let’s make it make sense, shall we?
The Northville girls soccer team did not return any all-state players this spring.
What’s more, the Mustangs brought in a new coach, one who has jumbled up the roster by having players switch positions, even benching some returning starters for backups.
And also sprinkle in the fact they play in one of the toughest leagues in the state, the Kensington Lakes Activities Association, which currently has four teams ranked in Division 1, including defending state champion Hartland.
That sounds like the recipe for a bonafide rebuild project, for sure, right?
Well, actually, Northville is far, far from that.
Right now, it’s, one, undefeated, two, on a collision course with Salem and Hartland to see who is going to win the KLAA-West and, three, ranked third in the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association’s most recent poll.
Exactly which recipe book is the Mustangs following right now? Because this isn’t your typical cookie-cutter rebuild.
“Is there a recipe ?!” first-year coach Jeannine Reddy asked with a smile. “I don’t know ?!”
Yes, that’s right. The Mustangs’ new coach is THAT Reddy. You know the one who has spent the past 18 years roaming the sidelines at Canton, from the club and travel ranks up to the varsity level.
The same Reddy who took the Chiefs to the 2016 state championship.
If you’ve got to replace a caliber of a coach like Eric Brucker, who led the Mustangs to a 2014 state title, you might want to go out and get one like her. She’s been to the big game before, too.
“They’ve welcomed me here, and they’ve been great,” Reddy said following Saturday’s 4-0 victory over White Lake Lakeland. “I was just worried about coming in and being new and wondering how they’d adjust to having things done a little differently than what they were used to last year.
“I’ve got people in new positions. Some girls who didn’t play high school (because they were on spring club teams) have come back to play their senior year, which was nice. And they all have the same goal, and that’s to play on June 18. That’s kind of my goal every year. ”
Worry no more, coach.
Northville (10-0-4) is winning the games it’s supposed to and, unpredictable spring weather be damned, salvaging ties as it needs to as well.
So how are the Mustangs doing it?
It’s not the formations, nor is it how the team has structured its lineup.
It’s all about the chemistry.
Reddy has come in and made each girl, from the top goal scorer to the last player off the bench, felt like they belong on the varsity, which is saying something because she has a staggering 24 players on the roster.
“Honestly, I think it’s that she’s just given everybody a chance,” said junior Reese Cassie, a second-year player who booted in a pair of goals vs. Lakeland. “I feel like it’s giving people who usually sit on the bench in most games a chance to make an impact on the field. I feel like she’s had an influence on the team in the sense of including everyone.
“Everybody this year has just been so close and so encouraging. If you’re on the bench, you’re cheering your heart out for everyone on the field. And I think that’s been, honestly, the biggest impact on our success this year We all just encourage each other to push the farthest we can go and be the best we can be. “
Northville has 11 seniors, including Emily Takahashi and Lauren Moraitis, a pair of career club players who wanted to finish their final spring of high school as Mustangs.
Three of the seven juniors already have varsity experience, which includes Cassie, Ana Murillo and Grace Koski, who scored a goal off a corner kick on Saturday.
Caroline Meloche, who pushed in the game’s final goal, is a sophomore who is also a returner.
That’s a lot of experience the squad’s brought back.
“I think all 24 girls on the team serve a really good purpose and balance each other out,” Reddy said. “I have a good starting group. I have 11 seniors who are seasoned players. Coming in new, it was very difficult for me to figure out the returning players from last year. I wanted to come in with a clean slate.
“I came in trying to figure out what I was looking for so it could benefit them the best. Obviously, coming in new like that, we were probably going to do something that wasn’t going on last year. Someone who maybe started last year them starting this year.To them, that’s upsetting, but I had to look at it with a clean slate.I had to come in and tell them that this is what I see and this is what best helps this team to get us where we want to be, and that’s obviously states. “
Northville doesn’t have an easy road ahead. There’s a chance it could suffer its first loss. Especially with half of its division also in its district to begin the Michigan High School Athletic Association tournament.
But it has Hartland, which currently has two losses in the division, coming up, and it’s never easy to face the defending state champions, regardless of which players the Eagles graduated from a year ago.
And, most importantly, many fans are looking forward to the Mustangs’ rematch with Salem on May 19.
Northville currently sits at 8-0-2 in the West, while the Rocks are 7-0-3. The two played to a 1-1 tie on April 25.
A winner should determine the division champion.
And let’s not forget that Salem is one of Reddy’s park rivals from her Canton days.
“It’s a struggle for me, going back there and playing against Canton, Salem and Plymouth,” Reddy said. “That’s the rivalry I just came from, and it’s almost a rivalry again for me.
“Coming out of that last Salem game, they felt like they left the game knowing they wanted to win it. And they have every opportunity to do so this time. It’s a big, big game for us.”
When asked what Reddy did with all of her old Canton gear, she said it’s “all in garbage bags.”
That was an obvious joke because her husband, Jimmy, is still the boys basketball coach at Canton. She’ll always be a supporter of her old school, aside from cheering on her husband’s team.
She might have had to put away her Chiefs’ gameday attire, but Northville is happy she kept out her recipe book because, for right now, the Mustangs are cooking.
Brandon Folsom covers high school sports in metro Detroit for Hometown Life. Follow him on Twitter @folsombrandonj.