FORTVILLE — Regulation wasn’t enough Wednesday night. And neither were 14 minutes of overtime.
The battle of unbeatens between Hoosier Heritage Conference rivals Mt. Vernon and New Palestine was settled in a shootout, and the host Marauders had just enough grit to survive.
Down 1-0 early in the first half and 2-1 in the final 22 minutes of regulation, Mt. Vernon answered every Dragons’ attempt to surge ahead as Nicole Ratts sealed the program’s ninth straight victory on the Marauders’ final penalty kick 5-4.
Ratts converted her shootout attempt to give Class 3A Mt. Vernon a 4-3 win. The defending conference champion Marauders improved to 9-0 on the season and 4-0 in the HHC.
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The loss dropped 2A No. 4 New Palestine to 7-1 on the year and 1-1 in the conference.
“The last loss we had in conference was to New Pal two years ago,” Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Williams said. “It was in September of 2015. We haven’t lost a conference game since that one.”
The Dragons tried to end the streak from the start, taking a 1-0 lead in the first eight-plus minutes with a goal from Olivia McKilligin, who dribbled around a defender before firing her shot into the back of the net.
The goal was the first scored against Mt. Vernon in a HHC match this season. It was the first goal allowed by Mt. Vernon in more nearly 249 minutes of conference play, which they previously outscored their foes 18-0.
The Dragons’ advantage lasted for more than 12 minutes before Mt. Vernon tied the match on a liner from 22-yards out by Emma Langdon, who had three goals, including in the shootout.
The Marauders nearly went up 2-1 before the match’s 54th minute as Morgan Scruggs sprinted toward the Dragons’ net and hammered home an empty net goal. Scruggs was called for a hand ball, waving off the goal, as she collided with New Palestine goalkeeper Haley Weinrich in front of the box and before her shot.
New Palestine grabbed a 2-1 lead with 20:12 left in regulation when Olivia Lambdin soared a shot over the outreached arms of Marauders’ keeper Jaici Wright.
The teams combined for four goals in the final 20 minutes of regulation and a pair flurried into the net during the last 11 minutes.
“It was a good hard-fought game. We were ahead. We were behind. We came back,” New Palestine head coach Gina Fannin said. “It was one of those where I couldn’t have asked anymore of them.”
New Palestine tried to build onto its lead with 12:19 left in the match, but Wright stonewalled McKilligin on a penalty kick with a diving save.
Wright’s heroics fueled the Marauders, especially Langdon, who scored on her own penalty kick with 10:48 remaining as New Palestine was whistled for a foul near goal.
“After Jaici saved that PK, I think the emotions were so high, that me personally, I couldn’t let her down for doing that,” said Langdon, whose second goal tied the match 2-2. “I had to make it up to her.”
An over the top goal by Alexi Hardie with 9:43 left on the clock, assisted by Langdon, gave Mt. Vernon its first lead of the night at 3-2.
The Dragons deadlocked the match with 2:46 remaining off a free kick by Corrin Neese. Wright swatted away Neese’s shot initially, but the Dragons attacked and Haley Harrison tied the match with a goal.
The scoring stopped in overtime as both teams traded scoring chances.
“I told the girls before the shootout, whatever happened I was already proud of them. In my mind, they had played one of the best games they’ve played and whatever happened from there on out was the result,” Fannin said. “It was just a number on the scoreboard. It was a good game.”
New Palestine missed it’s first penalty kick in the shootout, but the Dragons converted the next four, applying the pressure to Mt. Vernon, which shot second.
Hardie, Langdon, freshman Katie Gawrys, freshman Shay Stindle, and Ratts didn’t miss.
“Even if I had lost, I would have said that was a great game,” Williams said. “Fortunately, our PKs were dead on. It was a beautiful game to watch. It was a gutty performance.”
It also puts Mt. Vernon in control of their destiny in the HHC race with three more matches left.
“We needed a game like this to gut one out to go forward. It puts us in a really good spot in the conference,” Williams said. “New Pal is well coached, and they did what they do to their strength. We did, too. We just got it.”