FORTVILLE — As the match’s final seconds sped off the clock Saturday night, the Mt. Vernon girls soccer team struggled to conceal its disappointment.
Up 1-0 against Class 3A No. 12 East Central for nearly 56 minutes, the Marauders lost their grip late, falling 2-1 on their home field during the Sectional 12 championship.
East Central (16-0-2) tied the match in the 66th minute and broke through with its go-ahead goal with 4:13 remaining to halt Mt. Vernon’s quest at a second sectional championship in three years.
“The girls just played their guts out. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Mt. Vernon head coach Steve Williams said. “We didn’t do anything wrong. We didn’t run out of gas either. Give credit to East Central; they’re just a great team. We were right there. We had them. All we needed to do was hold on a little bit longer.”
Slowed by injuries, the Marauders (15-4) charged out quickly and grabbed a 1-0 lead in the match’s third minute off a ball played through the midfield by Alexi Hardie.
Morgan Scruggs, the team’s leading scorer, seized possession of the ball in stride and split a pair of defenders before firing a goal into the back of the net on the team’s first shot on goal of the match. The goal was her 27th on the season.
With heavy wind gusts whipping across the field and steady rainfall throughout the first half, the Marauders battled the conditions and the Trojans’ motivated attack to fend off 21 East Central shots overall. The Trojans finished with 11 shots on goal in the match.
“It’s hard to hold on for 40 minutes in the wind. We kind of knew if they kept going they would score one,” Williams said. “One more goal would have done it for us.”
The insurance goal, however, never materialized as East Central goalkeeper Jessica Shipman compiled six saves and the defense added another against seven Marauders shots on goal.
Mt. Vernon goalkeeper Jaici Wright had eight saves, including a stop against a near East Central goal with 18:58 remaining as the Trojans swarmed the box.
Wright stonewalled another liner by East Central’s
Taylor Hall early in the second half, but she had little chance against the Trojans game-tying shot.
Resetting after a failed corner kick set piece, the Trojans swung the ball over to Hall, who set up more than 25 yards away from the goal and lofted a perfect deep ball, which dropped in with 13:38 remaining.
With the match deadlocked, East Central’s defense marked Mt. Vernon junior Cleo Mills, who was playing in only her sixth match since tearing an anterior cruciate ligament seven months ago, and focused on senior Emma Langdon, who was hobbled by an ankle sprain.
Mills entered the championship with five goals in six matches, while Langdon had 16 in 16 contests prior.
East Central increased the pressure on offense until Lizzy Kern maneuvered around the Marauders defense to lace the decisive goal with 4:13 left.
“It’s so disappointing. The seniors worked really hard all season, and the incoming freshmen, I hope they take this and learn from this, learn this feeling and never let it happen again,” said Langdon, who left the field in a walking boot while getting choked up momentarily. “Even though I didn’t play the past two years (with the school team), we lost my freshman year in sectional. It’s just sad because I would have liked to have been out there to win at least one.”
The Marauders’ last sectional title was in 2015, the team’s first since 1996 and first in Class 2A before getting moved up to the newly formed 3A this season.
Mt. Vernon clinched a second straight Hoosier Heritage Conference championship this fall and recorded an impressive 104 goals in 19 matches.
“It was a great season. I can’t say the pressure was off because it wasn’t, but I think we surprised (East Central),” Williams said. “I think we’re the best team they’ve played to be honest.”
East Central 2, Mt. Vernon 1
Goals: Morgan Scruggs (MV); Taylor Hall, Lizzy Kern (EC). Assists: Alexi Hardie (MV). Saves: Jaici Wright 8 (MV); Jessica Shipman 4 (EC).