FORTVILLE — Rarely do athletes receive “player of the year” awards in just their first two years of high school. A freshman and sophomore from the same team receiving the county’s top honor? Now that’s another story.
But Mt. Vernon’s Alexi Hardie and Morgan Scruggs aren’t typical underclassmen — they’re more like seasoned veterans, leading the Marauders to the program’s best finish in 19 years this season and Hancock County’s first regional win in girls soccer since 1996.
Hardie, a freshman, was named First Team All-District (5) by the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association and finished her rookie season with 11 goals and a county-leading 16 assists (38 points) from her midfield position. Many of those were to Scruggs, a sophomore forward who led the county in goals with 20 and also dished out five assists. She was named Second Team All-District.
Story continues below gallery
Those numbers made this race too close to call — giving both Hardie and Scruggs the title of Daily Reporter Girls’ Soccer Co-Players of the Year.
“Lexi is a high-quality player and a winner,” head coach Steve Williams said, who was named Daily Reporter Girls Soccer Coach of the Year. “She was our attacking midfielder, you get open and she will find you … just a great teammate.
“Morgan is one tough kid as she has fought the rough injuries for the last two seasons,” Williams continued. “She is as quick as they come and can turn on a dime. She certainly is a handful to guard and has the ability to get her shot off quickly. She was the focus of most teams we played.”
Hardie, who showed unique talent at the age of 4, plays in the highest level of MRL (Midwest Regional League) on FC Pride and competed in the U.S. Youth National Soccer League this summer. Her team finished third out of 3,000 teams. The club also has won two state titles.
That playing experience led Hardie to a stellar freshman campaign. She registered two assists or more in six games, with a season-high three against Muncie Burris. Hardie also tallied a hat trick in her first varsity start against Southport.
“I am very honored, and it gives me something to work for in my future high school seasons,” Hardie said of being named co-player of the year. “As a midfielder, it is my job to connect the defense with the offense. I have some great forwards such as Morgan that know where to be. She is a great player and teammate. We have connected well on the field.”
Scruggs added, “Words can’t describe how excited and happy I am (to win this award). She (Hardie) communicates very well. She always brought me up when I got down on myself.
“I honestly didn’t expect to score this much in a season.”
The sophomore sharp-shooter began her playing days just about as soon as she could walk (3 years old) and currently plays on Sporting Indiana FC, which began in 1995 for Hancock and Madison County soccer players, as well as those around central Indiana.
This season, Scruggs averaged just over a goal per game and had a season-high four scores against Muncie Burris. She finished the season with four hat tricks after a scoreless rookie campaign in which she only played in four contests, according to Maxpreps.com.
With a mix of young talent, Mt. Vernon finished its season 12-7-1 and 5-2 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference (second place), winning six of its last eight contests before falling to No. 13 Center Grove in the regional final in overtime, 1-0.
One game prior in the regional semifinals, the Marauders showed little fear against No. 18 Roncalli, beating the Rebels 4-2 with a goal from Scruggs and two assists from Hardie.
Mt. Vernon also avenged a prior loss to county and conference rival New Palestine in the sectional championship match. After losing to the Dragons 2-1 in overtime Sept. 9 at home, the Marauders used a score from Hardie and fellow freshman Cleo Mills to win their first sectional title in nearly two decades, 2-1.
“We could not settle down on the bus ride home. We were so pumped,” Scruggs said.
Hardie echoed those thoughts, “It was amazing. We were happy to bring that trophy back to Mt. Vernon after 19 years.”
The pair did have help, however.
The aforementioned Mills scored 13 goals and notched five assists in just 11 games. Sophomore Alaina Nelson added 11 goals while classmate Nicole Ratts finished with three goals and 15 assists. In all, Mt. Vernon returns 71 goals (of 80) and 52 assists (of 63) next season.
“We have a special group of girls,” Scruggs said.
As for her and Hardie, the sky is the limit.
Club Team: FC Pride
2015 Stats: 11 goals and 16 assists
Awards: 1st Team All District, All-Hoosier Heritage Conference
Club Team: Sporting Indiana FC
2015 Stats: 20 goals and five assists
Awards: 2nd Team All District, All-Hoosier Heritage Conference