GREENFIELD — If it’s not one, it’s the other. If not the first two, the third one will surely find the net.
With Hancock’s County top-three scorers at his disposal, Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Williams has spent little time worrying about offense this season.
That trend continued on Thursday, but it definitely wasn’t easy.
The Marauders used first-and-second half goals from their leading scorer, sophomore forward Cleo Mills, and one from Nicole Ratts to earn a 3-1 win against its conference and county rival New Palestine during the Greenfield-Central Sectional semifinals.
Junior midfielder Lexi Hardie, who leads the nation in assists, added the helper on Mills’ first goal off a corner kick. Her teammates, Mills, Ratts and Morgan Scruggs, have all registered double digit goals this season and lead the area.
“Once we start connecting the dots, we have a pretty good offense,” Williams said. “We didn’t connect as well as I would have liked, but we won the game. We were a little rusty; it’s been like nine days since we’ve played.
“I thought Gina Fannin (New Palestine) had a really good game plan. She’s a really good coach. I have a lot of admiration for their program.”
On Mills’ second goal, the sophomore rebounded a free kick in the second and fired a rocket past the Dragons’ keeper from approximately 16 yards away.
Mt. Vernon will now play Greenfield-Central, who beat Shelbyville 1-0 during Thursday’s other semifinal match, on Saturday afternoon for a chance to repeat as sectional champions. The title game will begin at 2 p.m.
New Palestine added its only goal with 14 minutes left in the game after a deep shot from junior Corrin Neese flew just under the crossbar.
“It was probably the nicest goal of the game,” Dragons head coach Gina Fannin said. “It was a beautiful shot. I thought it was a good game and the girls played hard.”
Mt. Vernon led 1-0 at the half and took a commanding 2-0 lead with Ratts poking a ball past the New Palestine goalie with 29:50 left in the second half.
In a physical first half, which saw one yellow card just before the break, Mt. Vernon need nearly 30 minutes to find net. Hardie placed the aforementioned corner kick in front of the box, which caused a scramble near Dragons’ freshman keeper Haley Weinrich.
Mills took advantage and booted a ball past her with 11:54 left on the clock for a 1-0 lead that carried into the half.
The Marauders finished with four shots on goal in the first half while New Palestine recorded five.
“We played them better than the first time we played them, we just didn’t get through to score,” Fannin added. “What I told them at the end, what we take away from our season is our memories and our bond together. Whether we have a trophy or not, it doesn’t affect that.”
Mt. Vernon finished first in the Hoosier Heritage Conference (7-0), while New Palestine was tied for second with Pendleton Heights at 5-2.
Greenfield-Central and New Castle finished 4-3 for third in conference play. Williams said the Cougars will bring everything they have on Saturday.
“They will come to play and fight,” he said. “I don’t take anything for granted.”
Mt. Vernon 3, New Palestine 1
MV – Mills two goals, Hardie assist, Ratts goal
NP – Neese goal