FORTVILLE — Motivation was a given for the Mt. Vernon Marauders on Thursday night.
Halted from the program’s third sectional title and a repeat bid last fall, the Class 3A Marauders are now one step away from turning expectation into reality.
Mt. Vernon grabbed a 1-0 lead against Franklin Central (10-9) in the first half of their Sectional 12 semifinal before converting four more chances in the second to win 5-1.
The Marauders (15-3) will now face No. 12 East Central (15-0-2) for the sectional championship this Saturday on their home field at 7 p.m.
Story continues below gallery
“It’s going to be really tough,” Mt. Vernon’s Cleo Mills said about the upcoming title match. “For the team, we’ve been thinking about it ever since (last year). I know I have ever since I tore my ACL (earlier this year). We want it so bad.”
If they do clinch the championship, it could be without the team’s third-leading scorer in senior Emma Langdon, who was forced to exit the game with an ankle injury.
Langdon enter Thursday with 14 goals before adding a pair, including the first of the night on a 30-yard rope with 3:20 left in the first half.
The Valparaiso recruit pushed the lead to 2-0 in the second half with another deep shot during the match’s 43rd minute, marking the high-octane program’s 100th goal of the season.
“We had to start shooting from out, and we were good at that today,” Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Williams said. “Those goals, there’s not much you can do about that. We have some girls that can shoot and can really hit the ball a mile.”
The Marauders have averaged 5.8 goals per match this season, and they upheld their reputation while winning their second straight. Mt. Vernon defeated Richmond 8-2 in the sectional quarterfinals Tuesday.
They lost their regular-season finale and a chance at an outright Hoosier Heritage Conference title to league foe Pendleton Heights on Sept. 25 in a shootout. The sting has fueled the team since the second season began.
“It was a big confidence booster, especially after Pendleton, getting back on our feet and getting ready for the final,” Mills said.
Oddly, the defense set the tone for the Marauders, who held Franklin Central to three shots on goal in the first half and received nine saves by goalkeeper Jaici Wright through the match.
“My worry wasn’t with our offense. We’ve been scoring like crazy. It was my defense, but the defense really stepped it up,” Williams said. “The defense is playing well, and offensively, we feel good with anybody.”
The scoring was spread around against Franklin Central with Morgan Scruggs adding a goal at the 38:45 mark in the second half to increase the lead 3-0. Her second unfolded less than four minutes later as she fired a put-back goal into the net off an Alexi Hardie shot that bounced off the crossbar.
Hardi laced a 20-plus yard free kick into the net to put the Marauders up 5-0 with 28:21 remaining. The goal was Hardie’s ninth and for Scruggs, her sharp-shooting gives her 26 goals on the year.
Franklin Central scored their lone goal in the final 2:38 after the Marauders cleared their bench.
Now, they have one more step to take with Langdon questionable for the match.
“East Central is ranked and haven’t been beat, so they are going to be a handful,” Williams said. “We need everybody on board for that one.
“(Langdon) girl has gone through a lot with the injuries. She’s been off the charts with some of her shots. She’s been that x-factor for us.”
Langdon joined the team after stepping away the past two years to focus on club competition. While she was away, she battled injuries and recovered, including an anterior cruciate ligament tear. Her injury on Thursday was from a hard foul, sending her to the ground. She was carted off the field and fitted with a walking boot.
“We want to win it for her and kind of avenge her,” Mills said. “I think we have a strong offense, and I think we can work around it.”
Mt. Vernon 5, Franklin Central 0
Goals: Emma Langdon 2, Morgan Scruggs 2, Alexi Hardie (MV). Saves: Jaici Wright 8 (MV); Maddie Hasseld 5 (FC).