NEW PALESTINE — For the first time since 2012, New Palestine’s girls soccer team can call themselves Hoosier Heritage Conference champions.
With an 8-0 victory Tuesday against Shelbyville, the Dragons (13-3, 6-1 HHC) clinched a share of the conference title with New Castle, who they beat 3-1 on Sept. 14.
The Dragons have now won six of the last 12 HHC titles dating back to 2003 and six contests in a row to end their season, building excellent momentum entering sectional play next week.
New Palestine’s only losses of the season came to No. 18 Roncalli, No. 5 Brebeuf Jesuit and Greenfield-Central.
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The Dragons will have a chance at revenge Tuesday, however, as they look to repeat as sectional champs, beginning against the Cougars in the sectional opener for both teams. Mt. Vernon and Shelbyville will follow in the other semifinal at New Palestine.
“I know my girls are really looking forward to it,” New Palestine head coach Gina Fannin said. “We will come out ready to play.”
The sectional championship is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 7.
Senior Katie Villiger led the Dragons with a hat trick in the conference-clinching win over Shelbyville. She leads New Palestine’s high potent offense with 15 goals this season, including four game-winners.
The Dragons have scored three or more goals in 10 of its 16 games, including three games with seven or more.
Freshman Olivia Lambdin is second on the team with nine scores and three assists while juniors Katie Settergren (four goals, six assists) and Meaghan Matus (three goals, four assists) pace the tempo through the middle.
Fannin said teamwork and the girls’ willingness to make the open pass has been the team’s biggest key to success. Six different girls scored in the win over Shelbyville while 14 have at least one goal this season.
“We move the ball through pretty well, and we have players who can shoot the ball from far out,” Fannin added. “The teamwork is definitely there.”
The Dragons’ defense has been equally impressive. Senior keeper Gabbi Pierson has only allowed 11 goals the entire season and has 79 saves to go along with 10 shutouts.
“We’ve tried to strengthen our defense this year,” Fannin said. “Alicia Petrow has seen been in there too. Gabbi is very athletic and very agile. Anything that comes her way, she’s after it. We’re going to miss her next year.”
Petrow, Villiger and Pierson, and fellow seniors Courtney Smith, Kathryn Davis, Emma Taggart, Molly Carpenter, Emma Carmichael and Hannah Rush ended their home careers with a 7-0 win against Knightstown on Wednesday. That, mixed with the conference title earlier this week, marks a sweet ending for the class of 2016.
Although, with a sectional repeat on their minds, the Dragons are far from done.
“This was my first class to come full circle,” Fannin said, making the moment extra special. “There’s not one selfish girl. They’ve got their skills but they’re also good people.”
Round 1, Tuesday
Game 1: Greenfield-Central vs. New Palestine, 5 p.m.
Game 2: Shelbyville vs. Mt. Vernon, 7 p.m.
Championship, Oct. 10
G1 winner vs. G2 winner, 7 p.m.
Senior Katie Villiger – 15 goals and three assists
Freshman Olivia Lambdin – nine goals and three assists
Junior Katie Settergren – four goals and six assists
Sophomore Olivia McKilligan – four goals
Junior Meaghan Matus – three goals and four assists
Team – 14 Dragons with at least one goal this season