By Justin Whitaker
MOORESVILLE — One goal was all it took in Thursday night’s sectional semifinal matchup between the Class 2A No. 3-ranked Avon Orioles and Plainfield Quakers.
The Orioles’ Sarah Zolcak notched that single score in the first half as Avon won 1-0 over Plainfield.
It was a night of stingy defense from both teams but it was the Orioles who were able to record their fifth straight shutout to lead them to victory.
“I was really confident in our defense today,” Avon coach Eric Nance said. “Plainfield hardly had any chances on goal, I think one shot the whole game. We stayed really organized and really compact.”
Plainfield’s Allison Abbe had scored twice and assisted on another in Tuesday’s sectional opening 9-2 win over Mooresville. Because of her ability, the Orioles game planned their defense around stopping the dynamic athlete.
“We just had to watch where she was at at all times because she’s their playmaker and she likes to get the ball and run at defenders,” Nance said. “We had to make sure wherever she was, we always had someone pressuring and someone covering her. We kept an eye on her at all times and shifted together as a team defensively.”
Plainfield coach Kristen Robbins said she was proud of her Quakers in the tough defeat.
“We knew it was going to be a fight tonight and I was telling them to bring everything they had from the other night and more, and they did,” she said. “They put up a fight tonight and I’m so proud of the girls.”
On the game-deciding goal, Zolcak was able to score on an empty net after miscommunication between the Quakers left the ball free just outside of the box.
“I think they cleared it out through the middle and Sarah Zolcak had a heads up play,” Nance said. “She was wide open there right in the middle and she was able to put it in first time, one touch right into the back of the net. It was a good finish.”
The rest of the match was a dogfight as both teams fought to break through for a goal. Avon had more opportunities though as they had 10 shots on goal to one Quaker.
“We knew in the state tournament, especially them coming off a big win, we knew it was going to be a huge battle,” Nance said. “Plainfield’s players fought so hard tonight and I think our players fought extremely hard as well. I’m excited that we got that win. That’s all that matters in the state tournament.”
It was not for a lack of effort, the Quakers just could not break through the suffocating Orioles defense.
“They’re a really good team and we did all we could to get forward,” Robbins said. “I changed our formation there at the end to try and get up and did all we could.”
Plainfield goalie Lauren Gardner stopped 10 shots on goal and was a force all night with great saves from corner and free kicks.
“Lauren’s really peaked toward the end of the season,” Robbins said. “It’s been great to watch her grow over the last four years. She’s been a huge asset to this team.”
The Quakers graduate Gardner, Megan Broman, Amanda Trump, Kendal Baker, Marisela Sanchez, Emma Mongell, and Bailey Stewart.
“It’s the biggest group I’ve graduated since I’ve been here,” Robbins said. “They’ve been the core of getting us to where we are. Snatching 13 wins this season, that’s the most we’ve had in eight or nine years.”
Avon advances to a showdown in the sectional championship game against rival Brownsburg. The Orioles won 2-1 in the regular season but Nance knows to expect another fight.
“Brownsburg is going to be another battle, but I’m so confident in our team,” he said. “We’ve had an amazing season, these girls have been working hard for this moment and we’re excited about it.”