NEW PALESTINE — Free Kick Kylie strikes again.

From a familiar distance on the New Palestine soccer field, Mt. Vernon’s Kylie Brandes had the game-winner — on a second-half free kick — in Thursday’s Class 3A Sectional 12 semifinal of the IHSAA Girls Soccer State Tournament at New Palestine High School.

The Marauders, ranked No. 20 in the final Indiana Soccer Coaches Association poll released earlier this week, defeated their rival Dragons 3-0 to advance to Saturday’s 2 p.m. championship game at NPHS.

Mt. Vernon (11-5) will play No. 18 East Central (13-3-1), a 6-0 winner over Shelbyville in Thursday’s first semifinal. The Trojans are the defending tournament champs, defeating the Marauders in last year’s title game played at Greenfield-Central.

“Set pieces, all year, we’ve done well and (Kylie) is a good part of that,” Mt. Vernon coach Aaron Britt said. “She has great placement and she can hit the ball a ton.”

It was Mt. Vernon’s second win this season at New Palestine. On Sept. 7, the Marauders, after a 1-1 score through regulation and two overtimes, beat the Dragons on penalty kicks 4-3.

New Palestine (10-6-1) had led much of the regular-season game before Brandes connected on a free kick with just under five minutes remaining to force overtime.

On Thursday, right of the goal and just outside the box, Brandes connected on the game’s first goal with 35:53 left in the second half. It came on a free kick after a foul and yellow card against the Dragons.

The free kick she hit in the regular-season game was a similar distance, but left of the goal.

“I feel pretty confident (on those kicks) because it’s happened two times before,” Brandes said. “I just had to pick a spot in my mind and just hit it there. I have enough confidence now that I know I can do it.

“It was cool to get (the goal) that (turned) the game. Once we got that goal, it really pushed us.”

Shortly after Brandes scored the game’s first goal, a turnover in the New Palestine box led to a quick strike and goal for Mt. Vernon’s Hannah Monroe, giving the Marauders a 2-0 lead with 33:06 left.

An extra insurance goal came at the 13:55 mark when Addison Wong scored on a header from a Brandes corner kick. It was the first corner kick of the match for either team.

In the first half, neither team had a strong attempt on goal. New Palestine’s Tylar Whitaker, early in the half, and Nevaeh Gebhart, late in the period, each had shots go wide of frame. Whitaker’s was wide right of goal, and probably the Dragons best opportunity of the night. Gebhart was wide left.

Midway through the half, Mt. Vernon’s Mariam Konate had a try go wide left. A Mattie Isger header, early in the period, sailed off frame.

“We gave up a few fouls and they scored on a free kick. It was an unfortunate foul, unlucky, it seemed to open things up for them and then they scored on a corner,” New Palestine coach Erin Clark said. “Set pieces, that’s how they scored on us in the first game.”

New Palestine finished second in the HHC and graduates an 11-member senior class.

“You have 11 girls that aren’t just great soccer players, but very good in the community and off the field,” Clark said. “That makes a big difference. It’s a lot easier to coach when you have girls like that. It makes it a lot more fun.”

In last year’s championship game, East Central beat Mt. Vernon 2-0.

Mt. Vernon won the sectional title in 2020, beating East Central in the semis and New Palestine in the final. The Marauders also won titles in 2015 and 1996.

“The last couple years we’ve been back and forth (in the rankings),” Britt said of East Central. “They play great competition and they compete. We play great competition and compete. We’re looking forward to the opportunity. We love it. It’s good to have the chance.”

“They play a lot like us,” Brandes added on Saturday’s match. “We’re going to have to break through them as best as we can if we are going to get the sectional (championship).”

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