NEW PALESTINE — It’s an exciting way to end a match, but regardless of which team wins, it will always be a heartbreaker.
Greenfield-Central was on the heartbreak side Monday.
In the first quarterfinal match of the New Palestine Boys Soccer Sectional, the Cougars lost to Connersville 3-2 in a penalty-area shootout Monday at New Palestine High School.
The game was tied 2-2 after regulation and two overtimes.
Connersville (13-3-1) won after 10 rounds of kicks, 8-7, and will play New Palestine (8-8) in a 5 p.m. semifinal match Wednesday. Greenfield-Central ends the season 4-12.
“No matter how it goes, no matter which team wins, it’s a grueling loss,” Greenfield-Central assistant coach Matt McConnell said. “I think all of us hate that matches get settled on penalty kicks because the better team doesn’t always win. That’s just a fact at all levels of soccer. That’s not to say the better team always loses, it’s just the better team doesn’t always win. But, you have to settle it somehow.”
In regulation all successful kicks came on set plays.
In the first half, Greenfield-Central’s Carson Cicenas had a free kick take a friendly bounce over Connersville goalkeeper Tyler Garrett to give the Cougars a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute of action. It was his first goal of the season.
On a free kick, Jasper Martin scored his 26th of the year in the 23rd minute. A straight on attempt just outside the box rang the crossbar in the upper right corner to make it 1-1.
Fouled in the box in the 26th minute, Martin scored No. 27 on a penalty kick and the Spartans took a 2-1 lead into halftime.
The Cougars evened it early in the second half. Senior Gavin Jack, on an assist from junior Axel Valladares, from a corner kick, tied it 2-2 in the 47th minute.
“It’s a corner kick run we’ve been working on,” McConnell said of Jack’s game-tying goal. “We ran a set we’ve been working on all season. We ran it twice in a row. The first time it didn’t work. The second time I don’t think they saw it coming and Gavin Jack just buried it. Big players make big plays and Gavin is a big-time player.”
It was Jack’s fourth goal of the season.
The next 47 minutes, 33 in regulations and 14 in a pair of seven-minute overtime periods went scoreless.
After five rounds of the shootout, both teams made four tries. Moving to sudden death kicks, the teams were still locked up until the 10th round. After a G-C miss, Connersville’s Kaiden Lakes scored to end the match.
Greenfield-Central had successful shootout attempts from Jack, Valladares, Jordin Jones, Jeylan Ramirez, David Sunjic, Cale Caldwell and Jacob Oakley.
“Tonight, they certainly came to play and just couldn’t find the opportunities to put it in,” McConnell added. “Our defense played well. They gave up no goals in the run of play. They played disciplined and shut down (Martin) who has scored a lot and kept him in check all night. I’m really proud of them”
It was the final match for six G-C seniors, Cicenas, Jack, Ramirez, Andrew Martin, Cody Kelley and Diego Valdes.
“Our seniors are so critical,” McConnell added. “These boys learned so much this year. The season is very short, but can often feel very long. Our boys have battled through a lot to come together this week. This is the week they were coming together. They were all in (Monday night) and played their guts out. I couldn’t be more proud of the boys that have led us from that senior class.”