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State of Hancock Co. Soccer: 3 Storylines to watch before sectionals

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1. Is anyone standing in the way of the New Palestine girls’ seventh-straight sectional title?

Upsets can happen, of course, but it appears that despite major turnover following its second straight 17-1-3 season in 2011, the Dragons will be heavy favorites to capture yet another sectional crown early next month. The 2012 team doesn’t have quite the eye-popping record (9-5) as its predecessors did, but first-year coach Bobby Holden wanted his green squad to bond through adversity, even though his team may have realized its potential in the season opener.

“It’s been a challenge. It goes back to our first win (1-0) at Perry Meridian (who is now 12-2),” he said. “They bought into the thought that we could have a very successful season despite losing all those seniors.”

NP has won five in a row entering the home stretch of the regular season. Perhaps the real question is this: Can red-and-white secure the program’s first regional title after years of falling short?

2. Can the MV squads recover?

Entering Wednesday, both Marauder fútbol squads had hit a bit of a rough patch, with the girls’ team going three games without a triumph and the boys winless in its past five contests.

However, the girls (6-4-1) got back on track with a 6-0 road win over Rushville Wednesday night after traversing through a difficult stretch in their schedule which saw them take on 2A No. 2 Hamilton Southeastern, Marion (10-0-1) and 1A No. 4 Hamilton Heights.

“We needed some tougher games to perform better against a Greenfield-Central or New Palestine. It was good seeing all the things we’ve been working on work against Rushville.”

Meanwhile, boys’ coach Aaron Britt is simply waiting for his team (6-5-2) to heal, as he’s had players battling a myriad of ailments.

“The last five games we’ve played with anywhere from 11 to 13 guys. That’s 99 percent of the problem,” Britt explained. “Guys that don’t normally start are playing the entire game and the first guys off the bench have been freshmen that haven’t played varsity before.”

With his injured players due back by next week, Britt is hoping the team’s rough patch will be a blessing in disguise.

“We’ve had some guys get good experience,” he said. “And the guys that have been sitting out will have fresh legs.”

3. Does Cougars’ ‘D’ make them sectional favorites?

Greenfield-Central’s four losses have been by a single goal, and the team (7-4) has surrendered just eight scores all season after giving up 14 in 20 games in 2011. After losing goal keeper and reigning Hancock County Player of the Year Collin Kleckner to graduation — as well as four starting defenders — the team’s new net minder (Jarred Potter) and starting defenders (Joe McClarnon, Jacob Addington, Angel Rodriguez, Jacob Davis) haven’t missed a beat.

“The four guys we lost played every minute back there last year. We were worried about that,” said G-C coach Jared Manning, who also credited Heath Donley and Mitch Broome with the team’s defensive success. “Those six have proved that we don’t need to worry.”

MV coach Aaron Britt believes the blue-and-gold are “more dangerous than they’ve shown.”

“They’re committed to the attack this season,” he offered.

And yet, New Palestine (7-4-1) swept G-C and MV, something that the Cougars achieved last year en route to winning the program’s first sectional title since 2003.

NP coach Bobby Holden won’t dismiss Shelbyville, the fourth team in the sectional, as a threat. The Dragons were felled by the Golden Bears 2-1 on Sept. 6.

“Shelbyville is a contender because of what they did to us,” Holden offered. “They came to play and put us down 2-0, and we weren’t able to come back.

“Everybody’s knows it’s going to be one of the best sectionals in the state.”

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