NOVI, Mich. (BVM) — The Novi High School girls soccer program has been a dominating force in recent years, even being ranked as the No. 1 girls high school team in the country by Top Drawer Soccer in 2019. Before having their 2020 season canceled, the team won back-to-back MHSAA Division I girls soccer state championships, while going undefeated in 2019.
A large part of that success was due to standout Avery Fenchel. The 18-year-old soccer star had an incredible career at Novi, and although she did not get to finish it off this spring, Fenchel received a prestigious honor as she heads to Muncie, Ind. to play college ball at Ball State University.
Growing up, Fenchel played basketball and competed in gymnastics. She also played field hockey throughout her four years of high school. But her main sport has always been soccer.
Fenchel was signed up for rec soccer by her parents at age 4. She was immediately drawn to the sport as her sister and cousin both played as well, and she enjoyed the competitiveness of the sport while also getting to be around her friends.
During her youth, Fenchel began playing with Michigan Jaguars FC, where she’d help her team win two state cups. The attacking center midfielder quickly developed a high soccer IQ, which she believes is one of the best parts of her game today. Fenchel also has exceptional field vision that helps her create goal-scoring opportunities.
Ultimately, Fenchel’s youth experience prepared her for her high school career while also helping to gain confidence in her talent.
“Being able to play at this level helped me realize my talent for soccer but also helped with my high school soccer career and the success I had,” Fenchel said.
The future appeared bright for the soccer star as she began playing at Novi. In her freshman year, she helped the Wildcats out to a successful start to the season playing center forward – different than the attacking center mid position she played in her youth.
But everything would quickly change that May, when Fenchel broke her collarbone. Without her, the Wildcats would fall in the regional semifinals. While it was tough to sit out and watch from the sidelines, Fenchel was able to turn the negative into a positive.
“It was tough because I was not able to help my team out on the field,” Fenchel said about her injury. “But I was able to have a new perspective for the game and still could support my teammates from the sideline.”
Fenchel and the Wildcats came back with a vengeance in her sophomore season. Novi would have a dominant year that would lead them to the state championship game, but were seen as underdogs in their matchup with Grand Blanc. A scoreless game for most of the contest, Fenchel knew when it was her time to shine late, and she did so, scoring the game-winning goal with 3:29 remaining to secure the state championship victory.
“Our team was an underdog and everyone else thought Grand Blanc would have an easy victory,” Fenchel said about the state title game. “For me, being able to score the game-winning goal in the last 3 minutes of the championship was amazing. It is a feeling I will never forget.”
In 2019, expectations were high for the Novi girls soccer program, and the team delivered. The Wildcats would go undefeated with a 28-0-1 record, and win back-to-back state championships on the heels of Fenchel’s 25 goals and 14 assists throughout the season. This time, their state title game against conference foe Plymouth would be a route, ending in a 5-0 victory.
The Novi Wildcats scored a record 5 goals in the Division 1 Championship game versus Plymouth. @BgordonBrian @novi_soccer @NHSCatPack @avery_fenchel @wexiwhalenn12 @JuliaStadtherr @jessiebandyk pic.twitter.com/WqY4tYWB5O
— STATE CHAMPS! Michigan (@statechampsmich) June 17, 2019
The Wildcats set out to prove they belonged at the top, and according to Fenchel, they couldn’t have done much more to do so.
“I am still so proud of what our team was able to accomplish my junior year,” the 18-year-old said. “Being ranked No. 1 in the country, being undefeated, and winning a second straight state championship is what I would consider a pretty perfect season. I am proud to have been a part of that team.”
But little did anyone know, that would be the last time Fenchel and the rest of her 2020 class suited up for Novi soccer. With girls high school soccer played in the spring in Michigan, Fenchel had her final prep season canceled. It was obviously heartbreaking for the center forward, but also the program as a whole who was aiming to accomplish a three-peat.
“It was very heartbreaking to hear the season was canceled,” Fenchel said. “I was very sad that I did not get to finish out my high school career on my own terms and was looking forward to the opportunity of being a leader for my team. We had a very strong group coming back and had a good chance of a three-peat if we put in the work.”
We will never know if Novi would have won a third consecutive state title with that group. But what is known is that Fenchel’s three years of playing for the Wildcats was truly special. The Novi grad finished her career with 58 goals and 29 assists, and is proud of not only her success but also being a part of such an elite high school soccer program.
A first team all-state player, Fenchel knows she could not have achieved what she did personally without her teammates, and specifically her coach, Todd Pheiffer.
“He has been a great coach and is a big reason for much of my success in high school,” Fenchel said. “But he also is a great person off the field and I always enjoyed getting to talk to him in his classroom during the day. One of my favorite quotes of his is, ‘Don’t wait for opportunities, create them.’ I feel like we have done that over the past four years.”
Although she didn’t get to play her senior season, Fenchel would still receive one of the state’s top honors after being named Gatorade Michigan Girls Soccer Player of the Year. Not only did it prove to Fenchel that her hard work had paid off on the field, but it also showed she is making an impact off of it.
The Novi grad was a 4.0 GPA student throughout high school, and prioritizes her academics above all. She has also done some terrific volunteer work over the last few years, specifically as a coach for a non-profit organization called Playworks.
For Fenchel, the award was a perfect cap to a tremendous high school career.
“I was so excited when I found out I won the award,” Fenchel said. “I also realized that my hard work the past three years paid off and I felt honored to be recognized for it. This award is also thanks in part to my teammates because I would not have been able to win state championships without their hard work either.”
In the fall, Fenchel will take her soccer talents to Ball State University, where she hopes to have a successful four-year career. She will study exercise science at the school, and hopes to be a physical or occupational therapist someday, while also coaching youth soccer.
Fenchel began talking with Ball State in her freshman year, and by the fall of 2018, she officially committed to become a Cardinal. While she had other college options, Ball State just ended up being the right fit.
“I loved the campus at Ball State and the team culture,” the soccer star said. “It is also in the MAC conference which I had an interest in playing in. I am beyond excited to start my career there so soon and I look forward to seeing some of my former teammates on opposing teams this year.”
The 18-year-old has a bright future in college soccer and beyond. But she and her Novi teammates brought the school’s girls soccer program to new heights in her time there, and what they did will not soon be forgotten.
“Novi soccer has a very special team culture that is instilled in our program,” Fenchel concluded. “I hope we ultimately left a legacy that Novi soccer is a family. Off the field, we are able to have fun together and build relationships within our team. On the field, we work for each other and put everything on the line in order to win.”