GREENSBURG – Saturday night’s (Oct. 12) Class 2A sectional championship match at Greensburg was bound to be anticlimactic after Batesville’s penalty kick heroics against Indianapolis Cathedral Thursday.
But that didn’t make it any less special.
The Lady Bulldogs mirrored their 11-0 shutout of Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference rival Greensburg in late August, easily moving on to Saturday’s regional at Brebeuf Jesuit (Indianapolis).
“Coming into the season, we knew we had Cathedral in our sectional and were excited for that, but didn’t assume we were going to win a sectional title,” said happy head coach Kyle Laker, whose team improved to 11-6-1.
“So it means a lot,” he continued. “Our goal was to be at our peak at the end of the season and we played well here. I’m really proud of my girls.”
Six different Bulldogs got into the scoring column against the Pirates, paced by senior Abbey Prickel’s hat trick before halftime. Seniors Liz Heidlage and Ellie Cassidy added two apiece, as did freshman Bella Britch. Senior Carlie Werner and freshman Betsy Reidy completed the double-digit barrage.
“It was Liz’s birthday and she scored two early to take the edge off, because you’re still a bit nervous and have to put the ball in the back of the net,” said Laker.
“She and Carlie continue to be a dynamic combination up top, and with Abbey’s speed, it was just too much for Greensburg to handle,” he added. “We moved Ellie up from the defense, getting more of the seniors involved.”
Prickel scored first after an early dry spell, the assist by Cassidy. Soon, Heidlage was making it 3-0; the first was unassisted after a steal and the next had Werner dribbling along the endline for a drop-off to her teammate. Werner’s goal came via a Lauren Gutzwiller cross from the left flank.
Cassidy and Heidlage each assisted Prickel as the score ballooned to 6-0. Cassidy then benefited from a Heidlage assist, the former finishing to the far post. Meanwhile, the BHS defense was nearly spotless in the opening half with just one shot allowed.
It was 8-0 just five minutes into the second period, Cassidy putting in an Olivia Knueven assist. Laker called Reidy’s ensuing goal “a beautiful shot from distance,” the ball flying over the Pirates’ keeper. On one of Britch’s two makes, Allie Savage’s shot from distance hit the crossbar for a rebound goal.
The Bulldogs will get back to work in preparation for Brebeuf’s Lady Braves, who were ranked No. 1 in Class 2A entering sectional play.
“We’ll play them just like Cathedral, try to keep it 0-0 as long as we can,” said Laker. “We were really good in PK shootouts all season long (3-for-3) and if it comes down to that, that’s what we’re going to bank on if we can’t score a goal.”
The Batesville-Brebeuf matchup starts at 10 a.m. Saturday. The EIAC’s South Dearborn Knights will face Tri-West at noon. The regional title game starts at 7 p.m.
VS. INDIANAPOLIS CATHEDRAL (OCT. 10)
The sectional’s premier matchup occurred in the first of two semifinals Thurday evening. In this instance, the pregame hype – the Bulldogs finished the year 13th in Indiana Soccer Coaches Association’s 2A poll while the Indianapolis Cathedral Irish were 2nd – was equaled by the night’s action.
Cathedral, hoping to defend its Class 2A state championship from a year ago, stepped up an offensive attack following a scoreless first half, but the Irish – like the Bulldogs on the other end – were not able to dent the scoreboard through regulation and a pair of seven-minute overtime periods.
“Our goal was to keep it 0-0 as long as possible, I didn’t know if we’d be able to do it for 94 minutes ... I was hoping we’d put one in,” said Laker. “Our defense did a tremendous job. We gave up some chances but not without a shoulder, foot or something coming in, and Olive played a great game in the back.”
It was Cerniglia’s stop of Bridget Stratman’s penalty kick in the sudden-death period of overtime that set off a jubilant celebration at midfield.
Samantha Spellacy had tied the PK session at 4-all, but sophomore Ashley Nobbe calmly put the Dogs back in the lead.
“Cathedral was a game we had circled since last year,” Laker related. “I’m glad we had a chance to play them this year, because we wanted a chance at them in regionals last year, but got upset at our sectional while they went up and won the state championship.
“So that made (tonight) that much more of a must-win,” he went on. “To see what we could do against them and then knock them off ... I’m so proud of the girls and how they handled themselves in the pressure of the shootout.”
In the first half, Batesville was outshot 6-2 and Cathedral clearly had more chances on goal after intermission as well, despite a BHS corner and free kick early in the period. But the Bulldog defense held strong, furiously working to keep the ball out of the back of the net.
The closest call came with 19:30 on the clock, when the Irish’s Elle Lewis had the angle on a diagonal shot that just flew past the far post.
A true scare would come in the first OT period, as the Dogs were called for a touch foul inside the 18-yard box. On the resulting penalty kick, at 4:34, Carson Kwiatkowski’s try went directly into Cerniglia’s grasp. Cathedral fired off four more shots, including Kwiatkowski’s long attempt off the crossbar.
In the next period, BHS had one look to the Irish’s four; however, 94 minutes wouldn’t produce a winner.
Batesville was up first in the PK round and Heidlage buried it. Kwiatkowski evened things at 1-1. Cassidy put the Dogs back up by one and Cerniglia batted away a shot by Madeline Wirth. BHS sent a third senior up in Werner, who made it a 3-1 lead. The Irish pulled closer at 3-2, before Knueven’s try was pinballed from the keeper’s hands off the crossbar.
Caroline Cline tied the round at 3s, leaving one kick per team. Prickel glanced hers off the keeper’s hands and in for a very brief 4-3 edge.