GREENFIELD — Kayla Enochs wasn’t sure she could play. The pain crept in fast Saturday afternoon along with waves of panic as her migraine throbbed violently.
Only an hour before the Greenfield-Central Cougars were set to host Mt. Vernon for the Class 2A Sectional 23 championship, Enochs admitted, she “was kind of freaking out.”
“When I get migraines, they can blur my vision,” the Cougars goalkeeper said. “I was really nervous about it.”
Her teammates never doubted Enochs’ resolve, nor their own. The Cougars simply believed.
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After defeating the Mt. Vernon Marauders in an overtime shootout 4-3 for the program’s first sectional title since 2012, the Cougars made believers out of everyone else.
“I knew this year we had a special team,” Greenfield-Central senior Reagan Collins said. “This was our year to win. It was our time.”
Greenfield-Central head coach Erin Clark called the victory “four years in the making,” but the team’s championship push required 94 tense-filled minutes and two crucial saves as the clock stood still in a shootout with the title match in the balance.
During regulation and overtime, Enochs corralled six saves. Her final deflection in the shootout, however, applied the necessary pressure against the heavily-favored defending sectional champions.
Tied 2-all after Greenfield-Central missed 1 of 3 penalty kicks, Enochs made a slick diving swat to swing the momentum, and senior Sydney Burkhart and freshman Jaeden Ailes seized it.
The duo buried their ensuing penalty kicks deep into the net as Mt. Vernon split its last two. The Marauders’ final attempt hit the right post to seal the Cougars’ fourth sectional title all time since 2001.
“We’ve been working on PKs for a week and a half now. We commit 20 to 30 minutes of practice to it,” Clark said. “But you can make a 100 in practice. In a game, the pressure is on you.”
The Cougars were loose throughout, taking a 1-0 lead in the first half off a set piece initiated by sophomore Lucy Brand on a free kick five minutes into the match.
Playing the wind, which blew steadily from net to net, Brand lofted the ball into the box where sophomore Trystan Ailes pounced for the go-ahead goal.
“Because of the wind, I tried not to hit it as hard. The goalie kind of fumbled around with it, and we got it in,” Brand said. “We knew we had nothing to lose. We were the underdogs, so we wanted to come out hard and let whatever happened, happen. It worked out for us.”
Losing to the Hoosier Heritage Conference champion Marauders 3-0 during the regular season on Aug. 22, the Cougars (6-7-2) protected their lead until the second half.
Mt. Vernon (13-4) ratcheted up their attacked in the game’s final 54 minutes, logging seven shots on goal, including six in the second half. The Marauders broke through and tied the game 1-all with 17:22 remaining in second half as Cleo Mills played a perfectly timed ball from Alaina Nelson.
The Cougars had one shot on goal in the last 40 minutes of regulation and two in overtime.
“I’ve been there before. It’s just one of those crazy games. You can dominate a game, and it’s just the bounce of the ball,” Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Williams said. “In the second half, I thought we would put a couple on them, but we just weren’t connected.”
Mt. Vernon won the HHC outright with a 7-0 record this season and averaged nearly five goals a game with three or more goals scored in 12 matches. The Cougars countered with swarming protection in front of Enochs from Emily Davidson, Riley Sexton, Madelyn Trapp and Jenna Allen.
“They really played tough. Mt. Vernon has some great offensive power, and we knew that coming in,” Clark said. “The defense really stepped up.”
Enochs, meanwhile, locked in. With 12:41 left in regulation and the “adrenaline” calming her migraine, the goalkeeper stonewalled a lining free kick by Nelson and another hard shot by Mills midway through the second half.
Mt. Vernon’s Jaici Wright answered at the opposite net. She had five saves, redirecting a shot by Brand in the second overtime period that ricocheted off the corner of the goal. The sophomore suffocated another shot from freshman Jaeden Ailes off a cross pass from her sister, Trystan, with 2:23 remaining until the shootout.
Jaeden made sure she didn’t miss her final shot.
“Jaeden was one of our best PK kickers in practice. She has a quick strike,” Collins said. “We believed she would pull through for us on that last PK, and she did. This is awesome.”
Greenfield-Central 2, Mt. Vernon 1 (4-3 shootout)
GC: Trystan Ailes, 2 goals; Lucy Brand, assist; Jaeden Ailes, goal; Sydney Burkhart, goal; Riley Sexton, goal; Kayla Enochs, 6 saves
MV: Cleo Mills, 2 goals; Alexi Hardie, goal; Riley Hurst, goal; Alaina Nelson, assist; Jaici Wright, 5 saves