FORTVILLE — A Greenfield-Central girls’ soccer win over New Palestine Saturday in the sectional championship wasn’t a total surprise. After all, the Cougars fell by only a 2-1 score to New Palestine in the regular season.
What was a shock — and a sight not witnessed in the postseason for the better part of a decade — was the six-time defending sectional champion Dragons being overwhelmed by a more aggressive attack.
Over the final 60 minutes of the championship, Greenfield-Central bombarded the New Palestine goal with attempt after attempt, with Sammie McCoy breaking through twice (36:40, 53:30) to give the Cougars’ their first sectional championship since 2005, the year prior to the Dragons’ start of tournament dominance.
“Credit to New Pal and all they’ve done with their program,” said G-C goalkeeper Katie Peters, who recorded her program-record 41st shutout. “They’re a really talented team still and (New Palestine) coach Bobby Holden is a great guy … but I think this year was definitely a time of change. A good change.
“Coach (Amanda) Eid has helped us tremendously get better.”
Eid, the Cougars’ rookie head coach, replaced Dan Naegeli, who resigned last fall after several successful seasons with the program. But, Eid wasn’t supposed to be the new coach. G-C hired Valdo Da Costa this summer, but the local club coach abruptly resigned a short time later.
A teacher new to the G-C school system and former Roncalli assistant coach, Eid stepped in at the last minute, taking over a program with only one senior starter and not enough players to field a junior varsity team. Yet, the Cougars (11-6) registered double-digit wins, with a chance to add another W on Wednesday in the regional semifinal against Warren Central (12-6-1) at Shelbyville at 7 p.m. Center Grove (12-4-2) will face Perry Meridian (14-3) at 5 p.m. in the first semifinal. The championship is Saturday.
“We may not have had the depth and talent we’ve had in past years, but we’ve had the team chemistry and the drive to want to win and I think that’s what helped us win,” Peters said.
Added McCoy, Hancock County’s leading goal scorer with 27, “Coach Eid, we are so lucky to have her. She was crazy (Friday), she was so excited. She was like, ‘Guys, you look ready for this! We are ready to take on New Pal. You guys look great.’
“She believed in us, and we believed in ourselves.”
It was with that passion that Greenfield-Central took the field Saturday. Following a fairly even battle for control of the ball, the Cougars began their assault, finishing the first half with a 9-4 advantage in shots on goal. McCoy gave G-C a 1-0 lead off an assist from Emily Koers with 3:20 remaining in the opening half.
After several near misses by the G-C offense to start the second half, McCoy made it 2-0 with 26:30 left in the contest, then the G-C defense settled in to deny a New Palestine comeback.
With 2:30 to go, New Palestine senior Lauren Joray, the reigning Hancock County Player of the Year, hoisted a near-perfect shot from 40 feet out on the left side, the ball sailing high, headed toward the G-C net. But Peters dove up and to her right to knock the ball away with her right hand.
“She never backs down,” McCoy, a junior, said of her senior goalkeeper teammate, standing nearby. “This girl is a ninja, she’s so good. I never cease to be amazed by her.”
Peters, an Indiana University recruit, deflected the praise.
“It’s really about Alli (Frazier) and Abbey (Schulz) in the middle,” Peters said. “They really control the ball, and then they transition fast with Sam.
“With Sammie, she’s one speed all the time, she’s never second gear, first gear. She’s all full throttle.”
Joining Peters, McCoy, Koers, Frazier and Schulz in keying the Cougars Saturday were Kylie Smith, Tori Singco, Ginna Wood, Savannah Rizor, Courtney Dunn and Jordan Rupley.
The Cougars’ combination of speed and defense handed New Palestine its first loss to a Hancock County foe since Sept. 16, 2009, also against Greenfield-Central.
The Dragons’ local streak extended through the regular season, with wins over G-C and Mt. Vernon, and then another win over Mt. Vernon in the semifinals.
It was the 2-1 loss to New Palestine on Sept. 12 that motivated the Cougars on Saturday, according to Eid.
“They wanted this so bad,” she said. “Since we lost in regular season, I hate to say that it was a good thing, but it was just fuel for the fire.
“They’ve got the rivalry already and the desire to beat them, but losing — and losing 2-1 — we talked about that a lot on Friday. They just wanted it.”
Much like Eid’s relatively young group, New Palestine was also in a transition season with several new faces, including their own rookie head coach, Holden, who took over for Dana Merrick.
The Dragons fielded a starting lineup of four sophomores and a freshman around a handful of veterans most of the season, and managed to claim a Hoosier Heritage Conference championship on the way to a final 12-7 record.
“I’m proud of the girls,” Holden said. “I’m so grateful to be the coach of a team that worked so hard for every game and accomplished so much. The five seniors (Joray, Amy Hilton, Jennifer Roberts, Alyssa Mouzin, Kristin Wagner) are great girls that led us through an amazing year.
“Thank you, girls, for a great season.”
Part of the Dragons’ season included a 4-2 loss to Warren Central, the Cougars’ regional foe. G-C also lost to WC, 3-1, in the first game of the year. That contest was tied 1-1 at half on a goal from Koers, then the Warriors put the game away with two scores after intermission.
“I think we’ll be a surprise to them, because a lot has changed since that first game, so I don’t think they’re expecting us to be as full force as we are now,” Eid said. “Because we’re an entirely different team now than we were at the beginning of the season.”