SHELBYVILLE — The mission Monday night was victory for the New Palestine Dragons, but their coach’s pregame message was just as specific.
Win with class and don’t overlook anybody, Dragons head coach Gina Fannin expressed to her players prior to the Class 2A Sectional 28 championship at Shelbyville.
“That’s what I told them, ‘you can’t underestimate anybody. You need to get out there and get to it, then we’ll see what happens after that,'” Fannin said.
The 12th-ranked Dragons heeded their coach’s words and achieved both, defeating Beech Grove 9-0 to claim the program’s first sectional title since 2014 and 12th all time.
The championship was the team’s fourth in 2A since 2011 and first since the state tournament expanded to three classifications for 2017-18.
“I’m really proud of them. I think they’re playing some really good soccer right now, especially after losing Jordan (Reid) and Victoria (Crowder) this year,” Fannin said. “After losing them, we had to regroup our thoughts and get back on track. They’ve done that.”
Without Reid, a sophomore, and Crowder this postseason, who both suffered season-ending anterior cruciate ligament tears during the regular season, the Dragons have only lost two games so far — against county rivals Mt. Vernon on Sept. 6 and Greenfield-Central on Sept. 13. They tied No. 13 Roncalli last month.
En route to Monday’s title match, the Dragons (14-2-1) shut out Connersville 6-0 and have outscored their playoff foes 15-0. Their recent shutout marked the team’s eighth this year and fifth straight win since Sept. 16.
“The last sectional title we had some of these girls were freshmen. They aren’t that easy to come by, so we hope they understand it’s an honor to be able to play well enough to get through,” Fannin said. “We have to keep continuing to play well after this.”
The Dragons jumped out to a 6-0 lead against Beech Grove by halftime and added three more goals in the second half with the entire bench emptied long before intermission.
Grace Voelz, a junior, scored two goals during the match’s first seven minutes to put the Dragons in control. Moriah Corey, a freshman, also recorded two goals — her first two this year.
Grace Miller, Lucy Miller and Edin Hurst added first-half goals before Corey converted her first.
“We were pretty confident coming in, but you never know for sure, so once we got those few goals secured we were ready,” Voelz said.
Corey added her second goal four minutes into the second half as New Palestine out shot the Hornets (3-13-1) by a margin of 27-4. The Dragons logged 18 shots on goal to Beech Grove’s one.
Avery Biggs and Sydney Cornwell provided the night’s last two goals despite the Dragons playing back and looking away from scoring.
Crowder, a junior, who was in a wheelchair on the sidelines, cheered on her teammates during the match and joined them for their championship photo.
“It was difficult, more mentally then physically, losing those two. We hit kind of a slump because the two players that were out were a lot of our team spirit, especially on and off the field,” New Palestine senior Hannah Taggart said. “It was a big challenge for the rest of us to step up.”
At regional on Saturday, the Dragons will need to be sharp, facing No. 3 Batesville at noon in the semifinals at New Palestine. The Bulldogs are 16-2, losing twice to 3A East Central, who knocked off Mt. Vernon in the sectional finals this past Saturday 2-1.
“We just have to stay focused and play the game we know how to play,” Taggart remarked on the team’s upcoming regional task. “We have to come in ready.”
New Palestine 9, Beech Grove 0
Goals: Grace Voelz 2, Moriah Corey 2, Grace Miller, Lucy Miller, Edin Hurst, Avery Biggs, Sydney Cornwell (NP).