GREENFIELD — As the pressure spiked Tuesday night, Greenfield-Central’s Pablo Aguinaga’s composure was unfazed.
A cool and collected competitor, Aguinaga broke a scoreless tie in the 64th minute and added an insurance goal 10 minutes later to power the Cougars past Mt. Vernon 2-0 during the Class 3A Sectional 12 quarterfinals.
The goals were Aguinaga’s eighth and ninth of the season, and they unfolded with the Cougars searching for a hero in a rivalry matchup between both 2017 co-Hoosier Heritage Conference champions.
“I don’t know if all Spaniards are that calm, but he’s calm as can be,” Greenfield-Central head coach Bobby Holden said. “When that moment came, our blood pressure went up, and his is just, it’s all good.”
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A foreign exchange student from Spain, Aguinaga’s first goal came off a slick assist from Zack Bell, which the former slipped into the near-post corner past a diving Jenner York.
“We were really excited to play tonight because the last game we played them, we lost, so we had to beat them,” Aguinaga said. “It was a good pass. Thank you Zack.”
Aguinaga’s next goal unfolded as Clayton Kelley slide a pass to him toward the center of the box where he played it outer post and in with 6:43 left on the clock.
“His footwork is obviously phenomenal. We’re very blessed to have him and very happy he is here. He’s become a part of our family very quickly,” Holden said. “He’s done great things.”
The Cougars (11-5-1) went on the attack early and often in the first half, firing seven shots and four shots on goal, but they couldn’t find an opening against the Marauders (10-7).
Mt. Vernon shut out Greenfield-Central 3-0 on the same field on Sept. 7, to hand the Cougars their lone HHC loss during the regular-season. Both teams tied for the HHC title at 6-1 in league play, which added emphasis to their rematch in the sectional quarterfinals.
“Our play was a lot better than last time. I thought our attacks were a lot more promising. Last time was very confusing. This time it felt like we had it under control,” Holden said. “Mt. Vernon is a heck of a team, and for us to come out and play 2-0 against them is big. We knew it was going to be close.”
Mt. Vernon, which played without sophomore Logan Angelopulos (eight goals this season), was forced to juggle their lineup, especially at midfield.
Despite the moves, the Marauders kept the match deadlocked as York logged five saves in the first half and six in the second.
The Marauders were seeking some of their own postseason revenge after losing their shot at a repeat bid in 2016 during the sectional finals via a shootout against Greenfield-Central.
However, only three players from last year’s starting lineup played Tuesday with seven underclassmen overall.
“When you run into a team with that much speed, it’s hard to battle that,” Mt. Vernon head coach Matt Mayhew said. “To go in 0-0 at half, we felt like we could play with them a little bit more, and then they had a couple of quick breakaways. Jenner had a couple of good stops on them, but we just didn’t get those types of opportunities on our end.”
The few opportunities the Marauders found were halted by Abraham Buescher in goal with five saves to his credit. Cole Pierce recorded a clutch sliding save against Drew Heitman, who tried to tied the match 1-1 with 8:41 left.
As Buescher rolled out to secure the ball, the net opened up as the Marauders attacked before Pierce swooped in to maintain the Cougars’ 1-0 advantage.
“We’re very happy to share (the conference) championship, but moving on in sectional is more important,” Holden said. “Conference championships come and go, but a sectional win is big.”
In the match, Greenfield-Central used 11 corner kicks and 16 free kicks to wear down the Marauders, who had three corners and 16 free kicks of their own.
“It was a tense game. A lot of us play club with them, so we know each other and are friends. It’s a fun rivalry. It’s a big win for us,” Bell said. “We were creating, but we just couldn’t find the final hit. In the first half, I was a little nervous, but we were getting enough chances that I knew we’d hit a few in.”
The Cougars will now face East Central in the Sectional 12 semifinals tonight at 7 p.m. East Central (13-5) defeated New Palestine 2-0. The Trojans finished the regular season as Eastern Indiana Conference champions at 7-0.
Greenfield-Central 2, Mt. Vernon 0
Goals: Pablo Aguinaga 2 (GC). Saves: Jenner York 11 (MV), Abraham Buescher 5 (GC). Assists: Zack Bell, Clayton Kelley (GC).