By Justin Whitaker
ZIONSVILLE — Like they have done throughout the IHSAA girls’ soccer tournament, the Brownsburg Bulldogs made it memorable Wednesday night.
But the storybook run ended in the regional opener at Zionsville as Brebeuf Jesuit beat the Bulldogs 4-3.
“We played well, we just got a couple bad bounces,” Brownsburg coach Phil Slavens said.
The loss ends Brownsburg’s undefeated streak of eight games (four wins, four ties) and follows their postseason wins of 9-0 against Mooresville and 1-0 overtime sectional championship versus Avon.
Wednesday’s defeat also marks the beginning Slavens’ retirement after a 15-year career at Brownsburg.
“It’s sad, it really is. I just love this team,” he said. “I’ve had a great run, I’ve had a lot of great teams, I’ve had a ton of tremendous players and none better than this team here. They showed so much heart the last eight games and I could not be more proud of them. It’s a little sad but there again, I’ve been so blessed to have such good teams and to be at such a great school.”
The Braves (9-7-3) scored two goals in the last 12 minutes and withstood a furious rally from Brownsburg (5-10-4). With less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Bulldogs attempted back-to-back corner kicks and had multiple chances for a goal but came up just short.
“I thought a ball was in. I really did,” Slavens said. “But the linesman is on the line so I guess it wasn’t. But we had chances.”
Brebeuf’s Courtney Burks scored the only goal of the first half with 2:22 remaining and 1-0 at the break.
But after halftime, offense exploded from both teams.
Brownsburg needed only 25 seconds to tie the score when Sophie McFarland placed a perfect cross from the right side of the box on the head of Masey Brunn.
“I was really watching the ball and I didn’t see Masey come in there,” Slavens said. “She made just a great play.”
Two and a half minutes later, Hannah Mummert found Sydney Marette for the Bulldogs goal and to take the 2-1 lead.
But the Braves answered back six minutes later for the second tie of the game.
Brownsburg wasn’t ready to sit back yet either as two minutes after Brebeuf scored the 2-2 tying goal, Victoria Edwards blasted a free kick from 25’ out to give the Bulldogs the lead with 29:46 remaining.
The Braves were able to score the 3-3 tying goal with 11:40 left and the game-winning goal with 9:46 remaining.
Nine seniors will graduate from the Brownsburg squad in Alex Gotkowski, Taylor Carter, Leah Thompson, Lindsay Miller, Samantha Peery, Alexa Stegemoller, Rachal Sperka, Edwards and Taylor Stivers, who returned from a severe right ankle injury to play in the Bulldogs’ final game of the season.
“I’m especially proud of these seniors, they really emptied the tank,” Slavens said.
Through the past nine games and sectional championship, the season drastically turned around for the Bulldogs who opened the season 1-9.
“It’s been phenomenal, it really has,” Slavens said. “About halfway through the season I was thinking, ‘Man, can this get over quick enough’ because we were horrible. But the last half of the season they have played so very, very well. It’s been a delight to be here.”
The gracious coach also wanted to show appreciation for his time at the helm of the Bulldogs.
“I just want to thank Brownsburg High School for giving me the opportunity they gave me 15 years ago to do this,” Slavens said. “I know I’m not the best coach around but I’ve had players who have just absolutely kept me young.”
Instead of riding off into the sunset, Slavens said he’s going to stay busy.
“I’m going to take a year off and grow a garden,” he said. Sit on the front porch a little bit and I may go back to coach little kids. I’m sure I’ll be around.”