By Jeff Robison
INDIANAPOLIS — Defense dominated much of the Class 1A girls’ soccer regional match up between Park Tudor and Tri-West on Saturday. The host Panthers held off the Bruins for a 2-1 victory even though Tri-West came in ranked ninth and Park Tudor was unranked.
It became evident early on the match would be a tight defensive match.
Time of possession was evenly split and neither team had any major scoring attempts during the first half. There were few attacking runs at the goal during the entire match as the defensive sides cut off most before becoming scoring threats.
Park Tudor was the first team to finally cash in on a scoring opportunity when Samantha Schwab lofted a free kick from outside the Bruins’ penalty box over the defense and over Tri-West goalkeeper Karen Jones with 28:30 remaining in the game.
Bruins coach Jeff Sloan acknowledged that both teams’ tight defensive strategy made scoring difficult.
“It wasn’t play on the field that determined the end of the game. It was set plays and how well they were executed,” he said.
The Bruins tried to force the tempo of play after falling behind.
Lauren DeSutter got a shot on goal in the 20th minute of the second half, while lead pass attempts into the Park Tudor box by Abby Meyers, Cary Brown, and Kayla Stamm were cut off short by Panthers keeper Melissa Sturgill and the Braves’ defenders.
Then, the Panthers got an apparent clinching goal with 7:29 remaining when Sydnee Schwab took a free kick from the Park Tudor half of the field and lined it downfield, allowing for Rachel Smitherman to continue her sprint and get a kick past Jones.
“There was very little we could do to change that outcome,” Sloan said. “Set plays are tough to defend against, and when you take advantage of the opportunities, those things happen.”
The Bruins didn’t go away quietly, however, keeping some excitement down to the closing seconds.
Tri-West closed the margin to one goal with just 1:35 left when Gabby Edwards headed in a corner kick from Meyers.
“We knew (Park Tudor) was a defensive team, and we knew we would struggle scoring,” Edwards said. “I was so glad we got the one goal in. It brought up our hopes.”
Karen Parsons tried to loft a long rainbow shot at the goal in the final seconds, but Sturgill made the final save for the Panthers to get the victory.
The match ended the high school soccer careers for Tri-West seniors Edwards, DeSutter, Brown, Jordan Lightner, Ashlee Boyer, and Sydney McCalley. Edwards, DeSutter, and Brown served as team captains this year.
The Bruins closed out the 2012 season at 15-4, including the team’s second consecutive sectional title.
“It will be another building year next year,” Sloan said. “We lose six seniors, including five starters. But, we have a lot of good talent returning, too. These girls performed as a team. This was one of the smoothest teams that I’ve ever coached.”