The 2020 season for Southmont girls soccer had not been easy.
In fact with just two regular season wins and many missed opportunities, including a pair of Sagamore Conference shootout losses and a 2-0 loss to their sectional final opponent —some might even say it was a disappointment.
That all changed on Saturday when the Mounties upset host Cascade 2-2 (2-1 in shootout) to win ther fourth-straight IHSAA Class A Sectional title.
“This is the one that matters,” Southmont coach Phil Keller said. “When the pressure was on and I told the girls before it started that this is the one that’s going to go our way. This is the one that where if you believe it and you’re positive with, this is the one that’s going to go our way.”
Each team exchanged a pair of goals in the first six of minutes of the contest, before Sydney Gabbard gave the Cadets (9-6-2) their first lead at 2-1 with 20 minutes to go. Cascade continued to dominate the second half, firing shot after shot on the Mountie defense, but Southmont senior Marissa Craig dug deeper than she ever has before as a Mountie athlete.
“Honestly at the eight minute mark I looked up at the scoreboard and I was like ‘this is either my last eight minutes or I have to score a goal,’” she said. “And that’s exactly what I did three minutes later.”
Craig broke free with five minutes left and buried a second chance opportunity to tie the game. Moments later after the two teams were still tied at 2-2 after a pair of overtime periods she knocked in her shot during the shootout along with teammate Chloe Lynn to give the Mounties the 2-1 edge over the Cadets. Belle Miller had a save in the shootout, and 10 total saves for the game. Both Cascade goals came on penalty kicks, the first by Ava Cook and the second by Gabbard.
“She (Belle) did a great job for us,” Keller said. “She’s solid back there and it’s unfortunate that they got two goals on PKs, but that’s adversity. That comes with life and this is a great learning moment that we will teach in years to come.”
The latest sectional title follows a 2019 season where the Mounties made the regional final and won eight games. Southmont also graduated leading scorer Lexie Odum and key defenders Mia Myers and Claire Remley.
Craig, who has been on the last three title teams after joining the team as a sophomore, knew she would have to step up offensively.
“It means a lot,” she said of the sectional title. “Coming into soccer I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I don’t think I was even going to play at all. I didn’t expect to come this far, but being our leading scorer and scoring in these tough games it means a lot to know that I got myself up here.”
She paired with senior co-captain Emalie Ayers, who scored the Mounties’ first goal in the sectional final on a free kick from near 30 yards out — and Addison Charles, who has helped patrol the middle of the field all season long.
With the struggles offensively for much of the season, Southmont turned to Miller and a trio of young players on the back line, including freshmen Justine Troutman and Ashlynn Maddox, and Lynn a sophomore.
“They’ve done an amazing job all season long,” Keller said.
Now winners of a pair of sectional titles in his first two seasons at Southmont, Keller was without words following the hard fought win.
“There’s just no words for it,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable to have this be the first two seasons as a head coach. I’ve been extremely grateful. I’ve had a lot of great athletes that I’ve coached thus far and all the credit goes to them. I can only do so much for them and it’s up to them to take it out there on the field and play hard no matter what, and they’ve always done that for me.”
Southmont will play at Park Tudor in Indianapolis next Saturday in the regional with a start time and opponent to be determined.