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North Harrison forward Kimberly Chiquito flies toward the penalty box after being tripped by Forest Park defenders while trying to attack. The Lady Rangers won the physical contest, 2-0. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

Lady Cats reach final, fall to Rangers


October 16, 2013 | 10:27 AM

Scoring goals hadn't been a problem for North Harrison throughout the record-breaking 2013 girls' soccer season.

During the regular season, the Lady Cats were shutout only once (Providence) but ran into a roadblock at the Class A Forest Park Sectional championship Saturday at Cedar Crest Intermediate School north of Ferdinand.

The host Lady Rangers scored a pair of second-half goals but managed to keep the prolific North Harrison offense out of goal to score a 2-0 victory. Winning the sectional, Forest Park advances to a one-game regional Saturday at Lawrenceburg.

"Before this year, we never won a sectional game," North Harrison assistant coach Cody Austin said. "So to go from not winning a sectional game to making it to the finals, that is big for our school. Hopefully, we can take this experience and let it propel us into next year."

North Harrison nearly scored off the opening whistle. Taking the ball first, Amara Santiesteban, a foreign exchange student from Spain, drove right and set off a rocket shot toward goal. The shot was saved by Forest Park, which immediately went on the attack.

During the course of the first 10 minutes, Forest Park got off five shots. North Harrison keeper Shaylah Neal was able to keep the match scoreless with saves.

Forest Park had an early opportunity when the speedy Madisyn Hunt sent a cross toward an open Morgan Zehr at the back post in the 18th minute. Zehr misfired on the attempt.

North Harrison was able to get off eight shot attempts in the opening half but was unable to score.

Forest Park's Shelby Louden drew a foul in the penalty box when Regan Comer brought her down, setting up a penalty kick in the 25th minute. Rachel Lueken took the PK, but her shot was well right of target.

North Harrison attacked the goal several times late in the first half, feeding off momentum from the failed penalty. Midfielder Shelby Austin drew a foul a foot outside the top of the penalty box. Taking the free kick, Austin's drive ricocheted back to her after hitting the Forest Park wall of defenders.

"It's that first couple minutes of the game where we come out a little flat, but we managed to fire back today," Cody Austin said. "We fired back the entire game, and our girls fought hard."

In a physical game, one player for each team — Forest Park's Hunt and North Harrison's Kaitlyn Butler — picked up first-half yellow cards.

Early in the second half, North Harrison's hopes of taking the lead were dashed by the cross bar. Sending a corner toward the goal, Austin leaped over defenders to head a ball toward the goal, but the shot bounced off the bar and out of play.

"They couldn't buy a goal," Cody Austin said. "Some days you are just off. That cross by Kaitlyn Butler that Shelby rose and headed it toward goal beat the keeper but hit the cross bar was one we thought we had. We had several quality shots in the end but couldn't sneak one past."

Forest Park scored the first goal five minutes into the second half. Hunt took a free kick at the top of the box but saw it ring off the left post. Fortunately for the Lady Rangers, the rebound off the bar went directly to Louden, who simply kicked the ball into the back of the net.

"We tell Shaylah, our keeper, that the pole can be your best friend or your worst enemy and that one was her worst enemy," Cody Austin said. "She dove, missed the ball and it bounced out right to the girl. She took the good opportunity and scored."

Austin had another near miss go over the bar. After the Louden goal, North Harrison's all-time leading scorer took a deep free kick that nearly snuck under the bar but landed in the top netting.

Dealing with the physical play Forest Park brought, Austin went out for nearly 10 minutes when she was injured on a play.

"They got beat up a little bit," Cody Austin said. "We've never been a really aggressive team. We're more finesse, and you could say brute won today."

Forest Park added the second goal with 15 minutes to play when Madison Knies scored from the right wing.

Continuing to attack, North Harrison had attempts in the final five minutes. Cheyenne Byerley rocketed a shot but keeper Tabitha Steckler made a leaping save.

"We were down a player or two today, so we had limited subs," Cody Austin said. "We had some routine players out, so fatigue set in a bit. I'm really proud of how the girls fought. It was a great season. It sucks that it's over."

The season ended for the Lady Cats but plenty of memories will last for a long time, including winning the program's first Mid-Southern Conference championship.

"It's a statement that North Harrison soccer is getting better and we can win big games," Cody Austin said. "I thought we hung toe-to-toe with Forest Park, a very good soccer team, for about 70 minutes."

For the season, the Lady Cats finished 13-3.

Lost will be several contributing seniors, including Austin, who tallied 55 goals in four years.

"Shelby has worked hard and has played soccer since she was young," Cody Austin said. "Nicole Keene came up through the YMCA and was big for us as a strong defensive captain. Jenna Turner wasn't with us today, but she has been a good forward for us. Regan was a newcomer, but she played strong in defense this year, too."

Austin said he looks forward to the future of Lady Cats soccer.

"Our two juniors weren't on the team last year, so this was their first taste of soccer experience," he said. "The sophomore group is our big class. A couple years ago we started a middle school program, so we have four or five freshmen coming up that have experience. We're excited about the future."

First Round: NH 8, South Spencer 0

The monkey jumped off the back of the Lady Cats program Oct. 7 when North Harrison won its first sectional game in girls' soccer, dominating South Spencer 8-0.

Collecting two goals each for North Harrison were Kaitlyn Butler, Shelby Austin and Amara Santiesteban.

Four goals came in both halves of play against the Lady Rebels. Kimberly Chiquito, Cheyenne Byerley, Butler and Austin each scored in the opening half. Austin was credited with two assists in the half, and three for the game.

In the second half, Santiesteban scored a pair of goals while Butler and Austin added their second goals.

Lady Cats keeper Shaylah Neal picked up the shutout, making seven saves in the full 80 minutes.

Semi-final: NH 3, Northeast Dubois 0

Recording its second shutout of the postseason, North Harrison defeated Northeast Dubois 3-0 Thursday.

Shelby Austin, Cheyenne Byerley and Kaitlyn Butler netted a goal each for the Lady Cats. All three goals came in the second half.

Goalie Shaylah Neal was supported by a defense that helped keep the Lady Jeeps out of the goal.

"Northeast Dubois was a lot like Forest Park; they played aggressive and rattled us in the beginning," North Harrison assistant coach Cody Austin said. "We got some motivation in the girls at halftime, and they scored three in the second half."

Twitter: @CoryDemSports

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