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Statement Game: NP stakes HHC claim in victory over MV

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NEW PALESTINE — Bobby Holden knows full well that it’s been an unusual year for the New Palestine girls’ soccer program.

The past two seasons, the Dragons have posted 17-1-3 records and run their Hoosier Heritage Conference gamut unscathed.

However, entering Wednesday NP (4-5) had dropped three straight, with all three setbacks coming at a weekend tournament in Zionsville against McCutcheon (5-4), West Lafayette (5-2) and Sylvania Northview, a team receiving votes in Ohio’s big-school soccer division.

“This school isn’t used to losing three games in a row, let along losing, and losing those games was tough on the girls,” said Holden, whose program lost 11 seniors, including seven starters, off the 2011 team. “We had a talk about it. We decided playing that good competition is going to show this week, and it did.”

Sharpened from its tough weekend and boosted by a balanced scoring attack, New Palestine handled rival Mt. Vernon 4-1 Wednesday night to move to 3-0 in HHC play.

MV (4-2) fell to 1-2 in HHC contests.

The Dragons struck early against the Marauders. Not even four minutes into the match, NP’s Lauren Joray’s free kick went past the arms of MV goalkeeper Olivia Coleman. Jen Roberts settled the ball, then fed Madison Parish, who booted the ball into the back of the wide-open net for her sixth goal of the season.

About 20 minutes later, Coleman garnered a yellow card after she and Parish made contact going after a 50-50 ball in the MV goalie box.

Joray converted the ensuing penalty kick by sending the ball into the upper right-hand corner of the net for her team-leading eighth score and to push the red-and-white’s advantage to 2-0.

Three minutes later, the Dragons struck for the third time. Mouzin corralled a long right-to-left cross from Joray and then chipped the ball at the net from the left side of the box. The ball ricocheted off the right post and in for the final goal of the first stanza and Mouzin’s fourth of 2012.

“We played well and tactically strong in the first half,” offered Holden, who took over for longtime coach Dana Merrick before this season.

The second half brought more of the same tightly-called action as the first, though the officials really began earning the wrath of some in the crowd early in the second frame.

In a near reproduction of their initial entanglement, Coleman and Parish again collided just under the 33-minute mark of the final period, this time on the opposite end of the field. Coleman was again deemed responsible for the foul, though this time she collected a red card.

NP was awarded another penalty kick and Coleman was sent off, with Lindsey Werking replacing her in net. MV then had to continue a player down for the remainder of the contest.

Roberts blasted the ball just under the upper-left woodwork and the Dragons assumed a 4-0 lead.

The visitors would add a goal with 16:29 left in the game via an NP own goal as Lauren Bradburn’s cross went off the leg of a Dragon defender.

MV coach Casey Dodd spoke with the officials — who also ejected a pair of spectators in the second half — after the game about the cards his keeper picked up. Coleman must sit out her team’s next game, which is today against visiting Yorktown.

“(The officials) said that when she came out it was more going after the player than the ball,” said Dodd, in his seventh season in Fortville. “That’s all I really want to say about it.”

The veteran coach stopped short of using the officiating as an excuse for his team’s defeat, however.

“The difficult thing in a game like this...if they allow the players to be the ones dictating how the game goes, that’s the best thing,” Dodd explained. “If the referees can almost make themselves invisible and make the calls that they need to…I felt at times that it did inhibit the flow. I’m not going to criticize the referees for the way the game turned out.”

Thus far in 2012, the Marauders have throttled Southport, Muncie Central, Shelbyville and Connersville by a combined score of 22-1, but fallen to county nemeses G-C and NP.

“All due respect to some of the other teams on our schedule, but we’ve had an easy time of it with some of the teams,” Dodd admitted. “It’s difficult when you play that kind of game when you’re not having to be as sharp and then come into a game against a Greenfield-Central or New Palestine and be able to ramp it up.

“That’s what great about New Palestine, they play a very tough schedule. They may have a 5-5 record right now, but playing against that competition, they’re going to be tough.”

The victory pushed New Palestine even with Greenfield-Central in the HHC, with both teams 3-0 in conference games. Pendleton Heights (2-0) is also unbeaten.

When the Cougars visit New Palestine next Wednesday, county supremacy and a near-clear path to the HHC crown will be on the line.

“We’ve got one week off then it’s Greenfield next,” Holden said. “Beating Mt. Vernon was a good step for us because it shows the conference that we are the competitive team that we are, even though we lost a lot.”

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