Late Lady Dragons’ goals cost Lady Panthers MSC title
Brandon Miniard, Sports Writer, [email protected]
A nearly clear sky and warm temperatures provided the backdrop for the football field at Silver Creek High School. Instead of Friday night football, the Sellersburg faithful were treated to a special edition of Tuesday night girls’ soccer as the host Lady Dragons hosted rival Corydon Central.
Unlike in years’ past, the Lady Panthers came into Sellersburg as true foes instead of mere foils. Shortly after Senior Night festivities ended, the Lady Panthers and Class 2A No. 11 Lady Dragons took the field with at least a share of the Mid-Southern Conference championship on the line.
The Lady Panthers’ offense had difficulty navigating around the Lady Dragons’ defense, made all the more difficult by the absence of two-time All-MSC selection Ava Weber due to an ankle injury. Despite a game-tying second-half goal courtesy of junior midfielder Amirah Curry in the 50th minute, a pair of goals in the match’s final 15 minutes allowed the Lady Dragons to fly away with a 3-1 victory.
“We knew what was at stake if we won, and we were focused on the goal at hand,” head coach Derek Korte said. “We tried to not be too high, try not to be too low, just focused.”
The Lady Dragons struck first almost 12 minutes into the match when Olivia Johnston received a sharp pass from Carsyn Sidebottom. The result was a low, hard shot past the reach of Lady Panthers’ junior goalkeeper Maddison Franks to give the Lady Dragons an early 1-0 advantage.
The remainder of the first half saw the Lady Panthers doing everything in their power to try to tie the contest. What few shots on goal they were able to muster merely flew right into the gloved hands of Lady Dragons’ goalkeeper Emma Wilcoxson, soon resulting in both sides heading to halftime with the Lady Dragons up 1-0.
“Silver Creek moved the ball very well in the first half, but we weren’t taking advantage of our field position and sometimes relied on the big ball a little bit,” Korte said. “We had those opportunities, but we weren’t maintaining our field position. This goes back to what I was saying about the North Harrison game; our offense wasn’t supporting our defense enough to maintain possession.”
Ten minutes passed in the second half when the Lady Panthers made a bid to get back in the game. Maneuvering around the Lady Dragons’ defense, Curry lofted a shot that was just too high for the hands of Wilcoxson, allowing the ball to float like a feather into the goal.
For the next 17 minutes, both sides jockeyed for possession with multiple shots on goal falling flat. In the 67th minute, the Lady Dragons pulled ahead when Johnston broke free of the defense before taking the ball downfield. Once in range, she performed a reversal of the Lady Dragons’ first-half goal with a pass to Sidebottom, who fired a shot past Lady Panthers’ senior back-up goalkeeper Bella Gerlach to give the Lady Dragons a 2-1 advantage.
Not comfortable with a one-point lead, Lydia Wright answered the call about five minutes later, receiving a pass from Bella Scott as Gerlach rushed for the ball. That left a perfect shot for Wright to extend the Lady Dragons’ edge to the eventual 3-1 final.
“(Silver Creek) didn’t back down,” senior forward Avery Branham said. “They had a really good defense, and we were just trying to get the ball through a bit too much. We needed those longer shots just to try to get something over (Wilcoxson’s) head.”
With a 5-0 win over Charlestown two days later, the Lady Dragons wrapped up the MSC title for the second straight year. The Lady Panthers finished off the MSC slate with an 8-1 victory over rival Salem a day later.
Despite not winning the MSC title, the Lady Panthers are in prime position for this week’s sectional at Madison Consolidated, drawing the first-round bye. Their first taste of sectional action in 2021 will come tomorrow (Thursday) when they play the winner of the first-round matchup between Charlestown and Silver Creek. The Lady Panthers are hoping that, with the additional rest, Weber will be able to return in time to bolster the offense.
“Silver Creek’s got to do their job against Charlestown and then we’ll get them in the semifinal,” Korte said of the potential rematch. “Not many times where you get to come back a week later and play a very good opponent in a high stakes game. That’s where we’ll be.”
Kickoff for the Lady Panthers’ sectional matchup is currently scheduled for 5:30 p.m.