By Justin Whitaker
MOORESVILLE — The biggest of rivalries tend to bring out the best in competitors.
And in the girls’ soccer sectional championships between Avon and Brownsburg there was no separation after regulation or through the first 6:39 of overtime.
That is until Bulldog senior Taylor Carter drove a wedge between the familiar foes.
Carter made the difference-making play with 20 seconds remaining in the first half of overtime when she squeezed a ball through the smallest of windows and provided the game-deciding goal for a 1-0 win over Class 2A No. 3-ranked Avon (13-4-2).
“Not going to lie, I was a little panicked seeing the keeper come out knowing her reputation was daunting,” Carter said. “But I figured keep your cool, keep your composure, take a touch and do what I know how to do and place it.”
The goal was possible after Carter chased a pass from Sophie McFarland to just inside the right side of the box. Avon goalie Kelsey Dossey attempted to snatch the ball, but it came loose and Carter took a shot near the goal line. An attempt that she did not think was going to be scored.
“Honestly, I did not (know),” Carter said. “Sometimes I have that feeling when a ball goes off my foot like, ‘Yeah, that’s going in.’ But when I took that shot, I had no idea that it was going in.”
The shot came from a spot that would be similar to a fade away baseline jumper from behind the basket in basketball — an almost impossible position.
“I’m not sure there was an angle,” Carter said. “I was kind of just blindly kicking it and praying to God that He will somehow get it in for me.”
Carter’s kick effectively ended Avon’s season, a season in which the Orioles were ranked in the top of the polls nearly all year.
“We played hard, we played as hard as we could the whole game,” Avon coach Eric Nance. “They were able to get through and it was good individual effort from their player. (Carter) made a good cut inside and placed it.”
Even though the Orioles were unable to come out victorious, Nance said it wasn’t because of a lack of effort.
“I’m proud of them,” he said. “They played as hard as they could today and left it all on the field. It’d be one thing if they didn’t play hard but they played extremely hard and I’m proud of them regardless of the result.”
Once Brownsburg (5-9-4) held on through the remaining 7:20 minutes of overtime and the clock struck zero, coach Phil Slavens, who is retiring at season’s end, took off his hat and just rubbed his head in amazement.
“I knew we had the opportunity to do it, I knew our girls were good enough to do it, they totally amazed me,” Slavens said. “We only had about three subs and we were so dog tired at the end. I mean, Taylor Carter, what can you say? Alex (Gotkowski) did a phenomenal job in goal and the girls believed they could do it and did. So I guess I’ll have to wait to get in the rocking chair.”
Slavens credited the suburb senior leadership of the Bulldogs to this victory.
“I just could not be more proud of these seniors,” he said. “This was going to be their last game if they didn’t win and I chose for this to be my last game but they don’t have a choice.”
The 15-year coach at Brownsburg even had trouble sleeping the night before in anticipation for Saturday’s game.
“You would think after doing so many games you would be used to it,” Slavens said “But Avon, Brownsburg… what can you say?”
Through the last eight games, the Bulldogs are undefeated (four ties and four wins). And the team knows come tournament time that any game can be Slavens’ or Brownsburg’s nine seniors last game.
“It’s definitely a mutual feeling there,” Carter said. “We don’t want it to end, none of us want it to end. With the way that we have been improving through the season, it’s exciting to see where we go from here.”
The Orioles were in attack mode during the majority of the game putting consistent pressure on the Bulldog defense. Brownsburg keeper Alex Gotkowski stopped 10 shots on goal using her athleticism and smarts.
“She has played that way all year but we haven’t been able to give her the support she needs,” Slavens said. “The backs have started playing really, really well and she’s directing traffic, sure-handed and very smart. She just does not want the ball to get by her and she knew there wouldn’t be many goals in this game.”
Nance said that Avon had their chance but “we just didn’t finish.”
The Orioles return a fairly young team next season as they only graduate four girls.
“Senior class has been great,” Nance said. “The four players Becca (Twait), Shelby (Adams), Mikayla (Lasky), McKenzie (Muchow) have had a great career at Avon. They have a lot to keep their heads up about and they’ve been very successful.”
Brownsburg now moves onto regionals where they will face Brebeuf at 7 p.m., Wednesday at Zionsville.
After opening up the season 1-9, Taylor and the rest of the Bulldogs are playing with nothing to lose.
“I definitely think we are the underdog,” she said. “I don’t think people are seeing what’s coming from us. Watch out, I think we have a lot more potential than what people are giving us credit for.”