Sometimes in a close game, even one dominated by one team, a bounce this way or a bad bounce the other way can determine the outcome of a game. On Tuesday afternoon the Pioneer field hockey team dominated play with visiting Novi in a Division 1 state quarterfinal matchup.
Led by longtime and successful coach Jane Nixon, the Pioneers made sure a bad bounce the wrong way didn’t end their season as they knocked off Novi 1-0 in overtime to advance to the state semifinals. They improved to an impressive 15-2-1 on the season.
Both semifinals games will be played on Thursday at Pioneer High School. The 4:30 p.m. matchup will be Huron vs. Marian followed by the Pioneers against Dexter at 7 p.m.
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The Pioneer-Dexter game is a rematch of last year’s state finals, won by Pioneer 1-0 in overtime. Although both teams have gone through considerable roster changes over the last 12 months. The Pioneers are chasing their fourth straight state title.
In other quarterfinal games, Dexter defeated Skyline 3-1; Huron knocked out East Grand Rapids 3-1; and Marian defeated Saline 3-0.
After dominating much of the first half and the entire second half, the Pioneers finally broke through a tough Novi defense and goalie to produce the game winner in overtime on a windy, cold, rainy – yes, miserable – afternoon in Ann Arbor. Junior Anna Muckstadt scored with an assist from Serena Brimacombe to give the Pioneers the 1-0 win and send them on to the semifinals.
Junior Mimi Maixner earned the shutout in goal with a lot of credit going to the entire Pioneer team for limiting the amount of activity near the home team’s goal for most of the game.
Nixon called the win a “total team effort.”
“We work hard and take each play pass by pass and step by step and string as many passes together as we can to help get us good shots on net,” Nixon said. “I thought Novi played very well. They had a solid defense and we had to work hard and it was just a well-played, hard-fought quarterfinal game.”
That team effort and workability resulted in Pioneer’s goal.
“It started with hard work out of our defensive end and one simple pass to another simple pass and maintain possession until we got a good shot on goal,” she said. “Anna took it one on one with their keeper and their keeper is very good.”
Nixon also calls Dexter a “very good” team.
“Our teams have changed since last year but we both still have the same work ethic and intensity and it should be a really good matchup,” she said. “We don’t talk about what happened last year because that was last year. It’s this year that counts now.