NEW MARKET — It came down to the foot of a junior, and the hands of a sophomore.
And the pair of Mounties delivered.
In the 54th minute, Marissa Craig gave Southmont a 1-0 lead, and in the 66th minute, goalkeeper Belle Miller deflected a penalty kick shot to help seal the sectional title over North Putnam, and send the Mounties home with another Class A sectional championship. Their third in a row.
“This is the greatest we’ve played all season,” first-year Southmont coach Phil Keller said. “And what a time to play the best. Huge game for us, and this was absolutely a team win. Not one, not two, not three people, but the whole team won it together, and I couldn’t be prouder as a coach.”
After a 0-0 draw in the first half, both offenses picked up the pace in the second 40 minutes.
Southmont (9-6-2) had five shots on goal in the second half, to North Putnam’s (9-7-2) four, after the two teams combined for just four in the first half.
“The first half was just what we wanted,” North Putnam coach Jason Chew said “We wanted to go in at least 0-0 and play a real good game. I’m really proud of all my girls. We had seven seniors out there that left it on the field in the second half.”
Leading Mountie goal-scorer Lexie Odum was finally able to break free a handful of times in the second half, and put pressure on the Cougar’s defense.
As Odum streaked down the right sideline, her open shot in the 54th minute deflected off North Putnam goalie Marin Davies, leading to Craig’s game-winning goal.
Moments later a Southmont foul led to a penalty kick for North Putnam, and senior Grace Fry’s shot toward the right edge of the goal was knocked away by a diving Miller.
“I wasn’t as nervous as I probably should have been,” Miller said. “We’ve been practicing PK’s the last couple practices. And coach has been like dive one way or you know if they’re left footed they’re going right. So I think I just took what he told me into a real-life situation.”
The Cougars never seriously threatened the rest of the way.
No one player played a more important role than the other 10 girls on the field. Each player in each position shined at some point throughout the game for the Mounties.
And that’s been the plan all along.
“All this season we’ve just been practicing to be there for each other, and to win as a team,” Craig said after the win.
Like much of the season, the Mounties battled through adversity Saturday night, overcoming a number of fouls and in-game injuries.
“The thing that I really drilled into the girls this year is you can’t get the last play back,” Keller said. “You’ve got to be able to move onto the next one and stay positive out there and keep playing hard.”
Defense Steps Up
The Southmont defense pitched a shutout for the sixth time this season, and the second time against North Putnam, including a 2-0 win over the Cougars at the end of August.
“Anchor of the defense Claire Remley, Mia Myers, and Jayden Rivers, they played a phenomenal game for us,” Keller said “This win isn’t possible if they’re not all playing amazing, and that’s exactly what they did.”
Miller totaled six saves in goal.
Patience for Craig
After a nine-goal sophomore season, Craig entered Saturday night’s championship game with just two goals on the season, but knew her time was coming.
“To shine the light back on me,” she said. “Because last year I was obviously out more with nine goals, and now this year I only have three. I needed that to get back into it.”
And Keller never saw her effort waver.
“She’s (Craig) always stayed positive throughout the whole process,” he said. “Last year scoring nine goals, this year she has worked so hard chasing those goals this year. She had only two this year, so she had been down at times. For her to be the one to score in the sectional championship and win the game for us is amazing.”
Southmont improves to 9-6-2 on the season, and will face Centerville, who improved to 10-5 with a 3-0 win over Union County in the sectional title game at Knightstown, at 10 a.m. on Saturday at Heritage Christian in Indianapolis.