There isn’t a Southmont girls’ soccer player that knows what it feels like to lose a sectional game.
And there’s no plan for that feeling to appear this fall. In fact, the Mounties, who have won four-straight IHSAA Sectional titles, are having their best season since 2017 — carrying an 8-4-1 record into next week’s state tournament.
A fourth sectional title in 2020 came by little surprise because of the momentum the Mounties had from previous years, but the two-win regular season last year was disappointing. Despite the four sectional titles, two came during seasons with a losing record.
And even after back-to-back regional title game appearances, expectations by many were low heading into 2021.
“With last year, we were told we weren’t going to be this year because we were losing a lot of players,” senior Madison Chadwick said. “but I think that’s also pushed us to be better because people said we weren’t going to be good, and we wanted to show them that we are better than we were last year.”
The Mounties have — including a 6-2-1 start to the season — and this group led by five seniors has meshed together better than those in the past.
“I think the biggest difference is definitely team chemistry,” senior goalkeeper Belle Miller said. “We get along much better this year, and not that we didn’t last year, but I think a lot of us have gotten closer and we just play well together and I think that’s why we’ve been winning a lot.”
Miller, who has allowed less than two goals per contest, has been a big part of Southmont’s success with her leadership both on and off the field.
“I think we have a lot of leaders on the team,” she said. “I think we bring a positivity and a different type of energy, because this is our last year and we want what’s best for the team and what’s best for the program as well as we want to win every game we play.”
The last two seasons Southmont has relied on its defense to stay in games. And because it’s been so strong, they have stayed competitive with every team on their schedule.
“We have had a lot of great success to this point in the season and we have done well against a lot of great teams so being confident in our abilities to play with great teams is important down the stretch of the season,” third-year coach Phil Keller said. “Our team is resilient. Our team is not going to be intimidated, we will play hard the whole game and do everything we can to win. If another team is going to beat us, they will have to earn the win it’s not going to be given to them.”
And it’s been Keller’s ability to get his team in position to be successful that’s helped the Mounties stay at the top of their game no matter what players come and go.
“He believes that we can win, even if we don’t think that ourselves,” senior defender Chloe Lynn said. “He pushes us to be the best team we can be.”
All the hard work has paid off and showed off on the pitch this fall.
“It was mostly soccer girls, it was the soccer team that was putting in the effort this summer and it just shows that we are wanting to get better,” Chadwick said about summer workouts.
Southmont will play Cascade (8-6-1) in the opening game of the Class A Southmont Sectional on Tuesday, the team they beat in a shootout in the sectional final last season. They also beat the Cadets 1-0 in the regular season this year.
The goal doesn’t stop at the sectional though. The Mounties have their eyes set on advancing as far in the tournament as possible — and will try and become the first Montgomery County soccer team to win a regional since Crawfordsville’s boys won in 2007.
“We are approaching the state tournament the way we always have,” Keller said. “Confident that we can go very far if we do the things we need to in order to keep winning. We will bring intensity, hard work, and work together as a team in every game we have left.”
A switch has flipped for Southmont soccer. And they want it more now than ever before.
“I think we just have to keep wanting it and working hard on the field,” Lynn said of her teams’ tournament chances.
North Montgomery is doing what every coach hopes for, and that’s playing its best soccer heading into the tournament.
After missing two weeks due to COVID-19, the Chargers (7-6-1) have found their stride at the end of the regular season. That included a 4-1 record in their last five Sagamore Conference games, including a 6-4 win over Lebanon.
“We have come a long way this season,” longtime North Montgomery coach Julie Hodges said. “It has been a long season. We look back to the beginning of the year, and we struggled with our fitness in the beginning due to heat restritctions and games getting cancelled. Then we had our shutdown. It took us a little longer to be able to get into a groove. We haven’t had many opportunities to practice due to having to fit the majority of our season into a few weeks. So, to say we are peaking at the right time, I would say yes.”
The Chargers’ sectional draw is no easy task. A Danville (11-3-1) team that finished second in the SAC and beat North Montgomery 6-1 in the regular season.
“Every team has weaknesses, including Danville, and it is our job to be as prepared as we can to adjust from the first time we played them,” Hodges added. “They were our second game of the season all the way back in the middle of August, and we held them to a 1-1 game for about 60 minutes. We hit a wall and really fell apart in the last 20 minutes. That will be a key for us is to play a full 80-minute game. Our fitness level is so much better since then. These last few games we have really worked on our off the ball work and spreading the defense, and we’ve had sucess.”
The North Montgomery and Danville opening round match will follow Crawfordsville and Lafayette Central Catholic on Wednesday night at Danville in the Class 2A No. 25 sectional.
The Knights, who are the defending Class A champions, are 13-3 and beat Crawfordsville 9-0 during the regular season.
“We treat all of our games as an opportunity to learn and grow as athletes,” first-year Crawfordsville coach Alex Ehlrich said. “With this being a sectional game it’s time to give it all we have. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain so it’s going to be an opportunity to play out of our shoes and play like there is no tomorrow while also taking some risks that we might not take in the regular season.”
The Athenians have just one win, but Ehrlich has seen drastic improvements over the last two months.
“We have come a long way since the start of this school year,” he said. “Things are starting to click and we are seeing drastic improvements from a lot of the girls. We have seen quite a few light bulb moments where girls are thinking to themselves ‘wow this works.’ I would have liked to have peaked a little earlier in the season. With that said If we could play this season all over again, I think our outcomes would have been a lot different.”
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