GREENFIELD — If Wednesday night was a preview of things to come, whomever the Greenfield-Central Cougars draw this postseason could have their hands full.
Unbeaten in five straight matches prior to Wednesday night, the Cougars made it a quick six — literally — scoring five unanswered goals against rival New Palestine en route to a 6-0 shutout victory at home.
The surging Class 3A Cougars showed off their multi-tasking skills, improving to 10-2 on the season, 3-2 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference and getting some revenge all at once by blanking their county foe.
Last year, the Dragons (8-2-1, 2-2 HHC), who are ranked fifth in 2A, won the regular-season matchup with a late goal 1-0. This time around, sophomore Jaeden Ailes made sure history failed to repeat.
Ailes finished the night with four goals, upping her season total to 15. She had a hat trick before halftime.
“We had a lot great passes, and everyone was putting in 100 percent effort. We smashed watermelons yesterday,” Ailes laughed. “Last year, they scored their goal at the end, so we wanted some revenge, I guess.”
Ailes put the Cougars ahead 1-0 in the match’s fifth minute, taking a pass from Anne Marie DeKeyser and slipping past a defender to rope the ball into the back of the net.
Her second goal put the Cougars up 3-0 as she collected a through ball from Lucy Brand and split two defenders and caught the goalkeeper out of position.
“Jaeden Ailes, her speed and change of direction is just amazing,” Greenfield-Central head coach Erin Clark said. “We hit her on a lot of through balls and she turned two of those into something.”
Her sister Trystan Ailes had the team’s second goal — her eighth this year — again off a well placed push by Brand from midfield as the Cougars ramped up their attack.
Jaeden’s third goal unfolded on a breakaway as she collected an outlet pass from Trystan and ricocheted the shot off the far post and into the goal. A DeKeyser unassisted goal for her 11th this season found net with 23:01 left in the first half to put the Cougars in control 5-0.
Greenfield-Central used 12:21 to score all five goals before the match’s 17th minute. The first three goals came within a span of 9:28. Their fastest stretch was between the third and fourth goals, which only spent 1:02 off the clock.
“This is something we talk about every year as we get closer to sectional. We’re three weeks out, and that’s when we really start clicking,” Clark said. “We moved some girls around in different positions, since the Mt. Vernon game (on Aug. 22). And we’ve been going with that and through things, and things are starting to click.”
The biggest change has been on defense, Clark emphasized, and it was evident as the Cougars posted their eighth shutout this season. The Dragons were averaging 5.1 goals per game.
“We’ve been playing really well and scoring goals, but our defense have been keeping people out,” Clark said. “We beat Heritage Christian (Sept. 5) for the first time in five years and a lot of that was our defense playing tough.”
Kayla Enochs had five saves in goal for Greenfield-Central, but the backs kept her stationary most of the first half. New Palestine was limited to one shot and zero shots on goal until they recorded six in the second half.
“I’ve been playing in different spots, dropping back and also attacking,” Brand said. “The defense played amazing tonight. We couldn’t have won without them. Kayla’s last couple of saves were amazing.”
Enochs had a sequence of awareness as she batted away a potential Dragons’ goal with less than two minutes to go. As the Dragons tried to drop in a putback, Enochs slid in front to keep the net clean.
Emily Davidson, who was moved to sweeper after the Mt. Vernon game, was key on defense. Alex Rupley, who is now at outside back, Maddie Trapp and Kambell Trapp have formed a fierce foursome of the Cougars’ defense, Clark said.
Jaeden Ailes’ fourth goal developed off an outlet from Brand to Trystan, who connected with her sister with 28:23 left in the second half.
“Lucy has scored some goals this year. She’s turned offensive, but I don’t think people notice how important she is to our team,” Clark said. “She is the catalyst to everything.”
The Dragons are looking to regroup after losing two of their past four and tying Roncalli this past Saturday. Already without junior Victoria Crowder, who tore her anterior cruciate ligament two and a half weeks ago, New Palestine lost sophomore Jordan Reid to the same injury Saturday.
“I think mentally it changes a lot, but they have to get their minds back around it and get out there and play,” New Palestine head coach Gina Fannin said. “They’re young, so it hit them a little bit, and it hurts, especially when they are an integral part of your offense. But it can be fixed.”
Greenfield-Central 6, New Palestine 0
NP (8-2-1, 2-2 HHC);0;0;—;0
GC (10-2, 3-2 HHC);5;1;—;6
Goals: Jaeden Ailes 4, Anne Marie DeKeyser 1, Trystan Ailes 1 (GC).
Assists: Anne Marie DeKeyser 1, Lucy Brand 2, Trystan Ailes 2 (GC).
Saves: Kayla Enochs 5 (GC); Haley Weinrich 2 (NP).