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GIRLS SOCCER: ‘Devastating’ loss in sectional final

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BNL’s Jennifer Ramirez looks for room to work around South’s Bailey Silvers. The Panthers eliminated the Stars 3-0 in the Class 2-A sectional final.

South scores ‘unearned’ goals

to deny BNL 3-0 in Class 2-A

sectional championship duel

By Justin Sokeland

TheHHCSports.com

ELLETTSVILLE – The worst of shots created the best of goals, and the worst of emotions, as Bedford North Lawrence was kicked out of the Class 2-A state tournament.

If soccer had a statistical category for “unearned” goals, Bloomington South certainly had its share in the sectional final on Thursday evening. Every South score, it could be argued, was a gift. But in the one-and-done, sudden-death, season-over finality of the postseason, it matters not how, only how many.

The Panthers (13-4-2) took advantage of BNL breakdowns for a 3-0 victory, advancing to the regional semifinal at Jasper on Wednesday while winning their third sectional crown in the last four years. The Stars (11-4-3) suffered a cruel and unusual loss while falling short of the first sectional title in program history.

BNL's Karlie Cline encounters defensive pressure from South's Meera Alderson.

BNL’s Karlie Cline encounters defensive pressure from South’s Meera Alderson.

As tears flowed behind her, BNL coach Kelsey Pace called it “devastating.” And perhaps that was all that could be said. South dominated possession, held a 15-5 edge in shots, and created the better scoring chances. Those weren’t the ones that doomed the Stars.

“They didn’t even score on their best opportunities,” Pace said. “They had much better shots than those three. I really don’t know what happened. We should probably be in overtime.”

BNL's Lexi Russell loses possession while looking for an opening. The Stars generated only 5 shots.

BNL’s Lexi Russell loses possession while looking for an opening. The Stars generated only 5 shots.

South struck first with 2:10 left in the first half. Senna Hendricks lofted a shot that BNL goalie Gabby Wilson easily stopped – except the ball bounced off her hands, fell to the side and trickled into the net. Hendricks didn’t even see it. She had turned to retreat back on defense, and she was stunned when her teammates surrounded her to celebrate. Her surprise didn’t match BNL’s collective horror.

The Panthers added another with 35:45 left as Bailey Silvers dribbled a shot from 12 yards the right wing. Wilson bent down to gather it – and the ball slithered between her hands and across the goal line.

South’s final goal came immediately after a yellow card on BNL defender Haley Magness. Hope Gummere thumped the free kick from 20 yards, and it bounced into the right corner with 21:18 left.

“I feel tough for the goalkeeper,” South coach Ian Rickerby said. “We did score three pretty cheap goals. We did have chances that would have looked better on ESPN highlights, but I guess when they go in, they count.”

BNL's Kat Emery finds a rare open space in South's defense.

BNL’s Kat Emery finds rare open space in South’s defense.

Unfortunately, they counted.

Wilson, one of those who had to be comforted following the final horn, has certainly had better nights. But there were other reasons BNL struggled. South dominated midfield, often reacting first to loose ball while the Stars stood, playing reactionary soccer instead of aggressively. They were tentative until it was too late.

“In the first half, absolutely,” Pace said. “It’s like mental thing that’s instilled in these kids, because we’re from Bedford and they’re from Bloomington, we’re a lesser team.

“We had not played well and we were down 1-0 on a fluke goal. That should tell you something. We were on our heels. With our midfield playing defense all the time (as South’s Julia Wood made a mess of BNL’s structure and kept her team on the attack), how are we supposed to generate any offense?

“There’s just this instinct where they think they have to guard against goals being scored against us. To win a game, you have to score goals. We didn’t win a single ball until the second half, and that’s a choice. You can choose to go get the ball, or stand there and react to the ball.”

BNL's Kiana Brown and South's Senna Hendricks collide while battling for the ball.

BNL’s Kiana Brown and South’s Senna Hendricks collide while battling for the ball.

BNL did have a couple of chances, the best coming midway through the second half when South goalie Grace Stebbins made a rare mistake, straying too far off her line as BNL’s Kiana Brown headed the ball past her to open space. But Brown couldn’t get off a clean shot as Stebbins attempted to recover.

Other than that, the Stars were quiet. Too quiet.

The setback will have to settle in before BNL realizes how far it has come in a short time period.

“The season as a whole, I couldn’t be more proud,” Pace said. “We’ve had three winning seasons (in a row). As a program we’re thrilled. But this is devastating.”