ZIONSVILLE — For most of Saturday’s Class 2A Zionsville girls’ soccer regional final, second-ranked Avon and 10th-ranked Brebeuf looked like they might have to decide the match by penalty kicks. The Orioles finally broke through, however, with the lone goal of the game in the 74th minute, and held on for a 1-0 victory to move on to next Saturday’s Evansville semi-state.
Avon found an unlikely hero, as freshman backup forward Miranda Ricks came up with the lone tally with 6:57 remaining to play in regulation.
Ricks made a run along the right flank to steer in a long forward pass from senior defender Brooklynn Guerrettaz and booted a driving kick past Brebeuf goalkeeper Annie Clark to the back of the net.
Avon coach Eric Nance was all smiles to see his team pull through an admittedly tough match.
“It was too close,” Nance said. “Both teams have some great attackers who are going to be Division I soccer players.”
Ricks, who had played junior varsity most of the year, was surprised to find herself in position for a game-winning opportunity.
“I was really nervous and excited, and didn’t know what to do with (the ball),” Ricks said. “I thought about passing it to Cassidy (Blacha), who was coming on the left side, but instead I just hit it hard.”
The first half was a scoreless tie, with Avon getting a 5-3 advantage in shots on goal. But each side had near misses that could have resulted in goals.
With 10:47 left in the half, Brebeuf junior forward Reilly Martin slipped past the Oriole defense and forced Avon keeper Kelsey Dossey into a diving save.
Avon came close to its first score with two minutes on the clock when Heilly Blacha headed forward a long goal kick to Ricks, whose touch-kick set up Blacha for a one-on-one challenge at Clark and the Brebeuf net.
However, Blacha cut the shot angle too much and missed wide left, leaving the halftime deadlock.The Orioles seemed more determined to get on the board after the break, quickly getting the shot advantage up to 10-3. Crossing passes from Ricks and Hope Van Wagner created threats, while Alex Kimes forced Clark into a save with long shot that created a corner kick. Avon also came up empty when Van Wagner hit a free kick over the goal from just outside the penalty area.
The Braves pushed back as the clock wound into the final 15 minutes. Martin sent a free kick into the Avon box that sailed too high for a header, while two crossing passes to Tayler Fitts just missed clean connections at the Avon goal.
After Avon finally got its goal, drama and emotions stayed high on both sides. Just 55 seconds into play after Ricks’ score, the Orioles had to play shorthanded for the final 6:02 as senior Madison Knock was expelled on a red card (via two yellow cards) as was Avon assistant coach Chris Wey. Per IHSAA rules, Knock will sit out Avon’s next match.
However, the Avon defense won out the rest of the way and prevented a scoring threat from Brebeuf.
“Our defense did a good job of clearing the ball, and that was our plan for the match,” Vance said. “We kept ourselves organized, and kept someone on all of their attackers.”
Avon (15-2-3) will play Columbus East (17-2-1) at 10 a.m. CT Saturday at Evansville Harrison, with the winner to meet either Center Grove (14-3-3) or Evansville Memorial (17-3-2) at 6 p.m.