NAPOLEON — A two-win Napoleon team riding a three-game losing streak played state-ranked Sylvania Northview even for more than 70 minutes Wednesday night.
The Lady Cats continued to make diving saves in the final minutes and their defense wiped away a myriad of chances by a dynamic Northview offense that has not lost a league game since 2019.
But a daunting six-minute stretch in the first half overwhelmed Napoleon and led to a 6-0 Northern Lakes League loss to the Wildcats at Charles Buckenmeyer Stadium.
“It’s just taken a little bit longer than I expected, but things are starting to kind of settle in for them. ... From the first game to this game, we played good for 15 minutes, then we played good for 20 minutes. Now it’s 75ish minutes that we’re playing good, against really good teams,” Napoleon coach Chris Speiser said. “We’re widdling that down and hopefully, the goal is 80 minutes from start to finish.”
Napoleon fell to 2-12-1 overall and ends its NLL season at 1-6. Northview, which is ranked No. 14 in the latest Division I poll, improved to 9-4-2 and 5-0-2.
Miya Weber, Napoleon’s junior keeper, made her first save less than a minute into the match. Her second save was just moments after following a Northview corner kick.
Withstanding a relentless Northview attack, Weber continued to make numerous saves throughout the first 10 minutes as her defense marked the opposing forwards as best they could.
But Northview, which had scored a pair of goals against the No. 4- and 5-ranked Division I schools in consecutive games entering Wednesday’s match, began to punish Napoleon’s defense.
Following a corner kick, Meghan Coakley was the last player to get a touch on a loose ball inside the box and pushed it past Weber with 28:54 to play in the opening half.
Nicole Taylor sprinted past Napoleon’s back line to a textbook lead pass less than three minutes later before scoring a one-on-one goal past a sliding Weber for a 2-0 lead. Maddie Morgan headed a goal less than two minutes later and Ceci Lutz buried a goal just 52 seconds after that.
After Napoleon’s touch to begin play after Lutz’ goal, Northview immediately stole possession and sent another pass down the right sideline. Taylor rocketed a shot off of Weber and into the net for her second goal and a 5-0 lead with 22:38 still to play in the first half.
“They have weapons all over the field. When they’re coming at us with that many weapons, it’s hard to turn them away time and time again. Every once in a while we just fall asleep and it doesn’t take long for them to put five goals in,” Speiser said.
“Filling in those gaps. That whole 80-minute timeframe is where we have to quit just falling asleep.”
The Lady Cats held Northview scoreless for the next 61 minutes before Lutz netted another goal off of a corner kick with 1:43 to play.
Despite a five-goal deficit and the game essentially out of reach, Napoleon’s defense continued to swarm Northview’s attackers. It took deflections off the body and Weber continued to slide across the turf to keep Northview at bay.
Napoleon finishes its regular season at home Saturday at 11 a.m. against Ottawa Hills before hosting Maumee Wednesday in its Division II tournament opener.