CRESTON — Stopping Shelby Vaughn is the focus of every Norwayne opponent.
The junior forward is the most dangerous player in the area with the ball at her feet, able to change the outcome of a game with one quick move or one swift kick.
Chippewa is better equipped than most teams on Norwayne's schedule to defend Vaughn, with talent, high soccer IQ and quality coaching. But sometimes none of that matters, which was the case in the latest edition of the Norwayne-Chippewa rivalry that's become the most intense girls' soccer matchup in the area.
Vaughn's first-half goal gave the Bobcats what they needed to pull off a 1-0 win, holding off a flurry of Chippewa chances to create a tie atop the Wayne County Athletic League standings.
Chippewa quickly shut down Vaughn any time she touched the ball early on, but a quick counterattack in the 17th minute gave Vaughn the small window she needed, allowing her to put a move on her defender and outrace everyone for a one-on-one chance against Chippewa goalie Madison Breeden. Vaughn doesn't miss many of those, and didn't miss this one, giving the Bobcats what would be the only goal of the night.
"That's what Shelby does," Norwayne coach Jason Zimmerly said. "She can will a goal in certain games."
Still, Chippewa did a good job of limiting Vaughn's chances, keeping her to two shots on goal, shadowing her with Addison Good all night.
"It's very difficult for me because I have to feel the pressure and read them when they're on my back," Vaughn said of being marked. "But I've been man-marked the entire season and during my club season, so I'm used to it. I feel like beating that defender that's on my back is one of my strengths too."
But Vaughn, who recently announced her commitment to play college soccer at Michigan State, wasn't the player that stood out the most in the mind of Chippewa coach Ruth Coney. That distinction belonged to the Bobcats goalkeeper Sydney Emler, and for good reason.
"I was talking to my coaches, and we said Sydney Emler won that game for them," Coney said. "... We had the offense going, but that goalie, she did a great job. She really did. She was, I would say, their hero."
Emler was indeed heroic, safely securing or deflecting Chippewa's avalanche of long-distance shots, along with finding the right mix of discipline and aggression when there was traffic in the box. It resulted in a clean sheet with a whopping 17 saves in what could be the performance of the year by an area goalkeeper so far this season.
Chippewa's best chance came in the 55th minute. Abby Henegar put a corner kick into a sea of bodies in front of the Norwayne goal. The ball hit the ground, nearly crossing the goal line, but Emler was just able to scoop it up before any Chippewa player got solid contact.
While Chippewa dominated possession for most of the game, holding a 31-7 edge in total shots and a 17-5 edge in shots on goal, it rarely got high percentage looks close to the frame.
The odd statistical night made for another chapter to remember in the friendly rivalry between the teams.
"We've been going back and forth since elementary school," Norwayne senior Annabel Stanley said. "It's a big rivalry and we both have to bring our best. Sometimes they come out on top and sometimes we do, but we got them tonight."
The two rivals are now tied atop the WCAL standings at 7-1 in league play. Norwayne has won four of the last five meetings dating back to 2020. And potentially making the rivalry even more interesting: a playoff matchup could be in the cards this year, with Norwayne's move from Division II to Division III.
Outside of the rivalry, the win was especially emotional for a Norwayne team mourning the loss of Terry O'Hare, who was "Coach" to many of the Norwayne girls on the field Tuesday. O'Hare, who died Monday, coached many of them in track during the spring and was involved with Bobcats athletics for more than 50 years. Norwayne held a moment of silence for O'Hare and his family before the game (Editor's Note: The Daily Record is working on a full story highlighting O'Hare's life and legacy that will publish in the coming days).
Stanley was one of the players on the field who knew O'Hare best, running cross country and track under his tutelage.
"It's obviously really hard losing him," Stanley said through tears. "This one was for him tonight."
Vaughn also ran track in the spring and felt playing well Tuesday meant a little more in order to honor her former coach.
"He's one of the best coaches I've had and he's one of the most fun coaches," Vaughn said. "We came out today thinking of him and wanting to win for him."
Norwayne's volleyball team, which also features some standout track athletes, also beat WCAL co-leading Chippewa in a big upset just a few hundred yards away inside the gym. The Bobcats were certainly playing for more than themselves Tuesday.
This article originally appeared on The Daily Record: Girls Soccer: Vaughn and Emler lead Norwayne past Chippewa