PENDLETON — Frustrations spiked on the sidelines and in the stands, but the Mt. Vernon Marauders did their best to tune out the distractions.
Unfortunately, the host Pendleton Heights Arabians were locked in and played spoiler, halting the Marauders from an outright Hoosier Heritage Conference title in a shootout victory.
Up by two goals three times on Monday night against the Arabians, Mt. Vernon’s Cleo Mills — in just her second match back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament — supplied a hat trick, but the host Pendleton Heights capitalized with four goals in the final 18 minutes.
The Arabians (11-3-1, 6-1 HHC) tied the match 5-5 off a free kick goal by Kate Cowger with 3 minutes left in regulation before winning in the shootout 4-2 to clinch a share of the HHC crown with Mt. Vernon.
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The Marauders (13-3, 6-1 HHC), who won the HHC title outright last season, lost their first HHC match since Sept. 9, 2015, in overtime, ending their run at 16 straight.
“Give credit to Pendleton, they came to play. I never thought we’d lose a game where we scored five goals,” Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Williams said. “What are you going to do? There were some things in this game that were beyond my control.”
Down 1-0 early in the match, Mt. Vernon recovered quickly as Mills buried her first goal in a one-on-three situation. Mills sliced past three defenders and caught Arabians’ goalkeeper Shayla Meinders off balance to tie it up 1-1 after trailing for only two minutes.
A goal by Nicole Ratts put the Marauders up 2-1 in the 47th minute, and a thru ball from Shay Stindle to a streaking Emma Langdon increased the Marauders lead to 3-1 with 23:52 remaining.
“It was a great game. Cleo is back and had a hat trick. The girls played their guts outs,” Williams said. “It was just the free kicks that killed us.”
A goal off a free-kick attempt with 18:01 left in the match by Helena Talbot kicked off a fiery stretch. Both teams combined to score six goals in the final 18 minutes of regulation.
Talbot’s putback goal to cut the deficit 3-2 unfolded off a Cowger free kick shot that Jaici Wright initially swatted away.
Mt. Vernon was issued two yellow cards in the second half and several questionable fouls went against the Marauders in their zone, which put the Arabians in promising situations.
“A lot of them were shoulder to shoulder, but it seemed like they got a bulk of those calls,” Williams said. “But I don’t want to make excuses.”
A handball call on the Arabians with 15:36 setup Mills second goal. Mills fired a penalty kick into the back of the net to put Mt. Vernon ahead 4-2.
Pendleton Heights’ Leonie Wilson lined in a putback goal with 10:43 remaining to narrow the gap 4-3.
Mills completed her hat trick a little more than a minute later as she played a ball from Langdon to make it 5-3. But another goal by Pendleton Heights that developed from a corner kick by Macy Browning kept it tight at 5-4.
“In a game, I’m the type that doesn’t believe it’s over until it’s over. I was determined. I thought we could pull through,” Mills said.
A yellow card on the Marauders with 3:00 on the clock previewed what was to come. The Arabians followed up what the boys team’s recent accomplished against Mt. Vernon the week prior to keep them from a second straight outright HHC title.
“I told them, that was a little bit of a foreshadow. For the boys to win the other night, the football team to win the other night, too. The athletic department had it on Twitter with each one checked off. We had a box next to our name,” Pendleton Heights head coach Mark Davy said. “We checked it off tonight.”
The Arabians converted all four of their penalty kick attempts in the shootout while Mt. Vernon missed their first two to lose.
“It’s frustrating, but Pendleton is a good team, and it doesn’t always fall your way,” Mills said. “We knew it was going to be a hard game.
“We’ve worked hard and pushed through a ton of injuries this season. I think it’s something to be proud of (clinching a share of the HHC), and we’re going to push and keep working for sectional.”
Pendleton Heights 6, Mt. Vernon 5 (4-2 shootout)
MV (13-3, 6-1 HHC);1;4;0;0;(2);—;5
PH (11-3-1, 6-1 HH);1;4;0;0;(4);—;6
Goals: MV – Cleo Mills (3), Emma Langdon, Nicole Ratts; PH – Taylor Fort, Helena Talbot, Leonie Wilson, Macy Browning, Kate Cowger.