FORTVILLE — In what’s becoming an annual tradition, the Mt. Vernon and New Palestine girls soccer teams needed overtime late Wednesday night to determine a victor.
In what’s also becoming a common occurrence, it was New Palestine who pulled out the close victory, 2-1.
“(The game) was intense,” New Palestine coach Gina Fannin said afterwards. “It’s always been that way, and it always will be that way when these two teams play.”
Mt. Vernon seemingly started the game more urgency when with less than 3 minutes into the game sophomore Alaina Nelson took a long pass from Carrie Hannemann, streaked past the Dragon defenders and easily slotted home the opening goal to put her team ahead 1-0.
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“I warned them before the game they had fast forwards, and they saw that first hand right away,” Fannin said.
Despite Mt. Vernon’s quick goal, New Palestine responded four minutes later when a scramble around the box led to Dragons freshman Olivia Lambdin sneaking in a goal under Mt. Vernon’s goalkeeper off a Katie Villiger assist.
What looked to be a shootout wouldn’t see another goal for 82 minutes, however.
For the rest of the first half, New Pal controlled possession of the ball, but the Marauders were able to counter quickly.
The most dangerous counter attack led to a penalty kick for Mt. Vernon after Nicole Ratts was fouled in the box following an attempt down the left flank. Ratts’ spot kick was pulled to the right of the goal, however, and the score remained tied at 1-1 going into halftime.
At the beginning of the second half, New Palestine was able to control Mt. Vernon’s intensity, which led to long stretches of possession for the Dragons.
“In the first half, our midfielders were sitting back too far, which allowed (Mt. Vernon’s) defenders to collect the ball and send it up the field,” Fannin stated. “When the midfielders pushed forward, they were able to prevent (Mt. Vernon’s) defenders from passing it up the field in the first place.”
The only clear chance on goal for either team in the second half unfolded 12 minutes in as Mt. Vernon junior Tyller Leath found herself on a breakaway with only the goaltender to beat. But an unfortunate bounce of the ball led to an easy save for New Palestine goalkeeper Gabbi Pierson.
With the score tied at 1-1, the two teams headed into overtime.
With New Palestine dominating possession in the overtime’s first half, Mt. Vernon sophomore Morgan Scruggs chipped a shot over the head of the goalkeeper, but it bounced off the crossbar. After a brief scrum, the ball was collected by the Dragons.
“We certainly had the game on our foot a few times,” Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Williams said. “The game is obviously a bit different if any of those close chances go in.”
With the potential of penalty kicks looming, Villiger finally found the back of the net. Dribbling down the sideline and into the box, the senior calmly hit the inner top roof of the net to give the Dragons a 2-1 lead with five minutes remaining.
“Some injuries we had forced us to shorten our bench, and I think we ran out of gas a bit in the second half and overtime,” Williams said afterwards.
Villiger, the defending Hancock County Player of the Year, remained humble after the game: “We just picked up our intensity in the overtime, because we really didn’t want penalty kicks.”
The Dragons’ record improved to 6-1, with a 2-0 record in the Hoosier Heritage Conference after the win. The Marauders’ record fell to 4-3-1 with a 2-2 HHC record.
The two teams could meet again in the sectional, and both coaches pinpointed areas to work on from the game should they face off then.
“With our rotations being a bit different, I think our players will be used to playing longer and should be more fit come sectional time,” Williams said while looking forward.
“We can look at the game film to try and prevent what Mt. Vernon was having success with,” Fannin said. “But I can also point to this game and tell them that when we calm down and play our game, we play better.”
New Palestine 2, Mt. Vernon 1, OT
MV — Alaina Nelson goal, 3rd minute
NP — Olivia Lambdin goal, 7th minute
NP — Katie Villiger goal, 89th minute
Yellow Card — Alexi Hardi (MV), 67th minute; Victoria Crowder (NP), 78th minute.