Prior to Monday night, Center Grove’s last five meetings against Carmel in boys soccer had all been decided by a single goal.
Creating separation proved more difficult this time around as the teams battled to a 1-1 tie.
Center Grove, ranked ninth in Class 2A, now sports a record of 7-2-3 overall and 3-1-2 in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference standings.
The host Greyhounds, ranked No. 7, are 7-2-5 with a league record of 4-1-2.
All the scoring was done in the first half, though numerous near-misses from both teams over the final 40 minutes added even more drama to such a tightly contested match.
“I thought it was a well-played match. We started very slow, and then we built into the game and finished well,” Center Grove coach Jameson McLaughlin said. “A little frantic at the end there, but I think Jacob Cooley made two incredible saves that really sealed the tie for us.”
Cooley, the Trojans’ junior goalkeeper, made the play of the match with only 1:26 remaining off a kick from Carmel junior midfielder Ben Godden that appeared on its way to giving the ’Hounds a 2-1 advantage.
Diving to the right, Cooley extended his 6-foot-1 frame to its fullest just enough so that his gloved hands could deflect the ball away.
“That was completely reactionary. I didn’t realize he was hitting a volley, and I just saw it going right and … that was completely reactionary,” Cooley said seconds after being wrapped in a hug by his coach.
“But I like intense matches. I like up-tempo games. I think it was even possessions for the full 80 minutes.”
The first half ended in a 1-1 tie.
Carmel opened the scoring with a goal from senior forward Brenno Pecora at 27:44. The Trojans answered shortly thereafter when at 25:03 senior Jared Wilkerson chipped a ball into the back of the net from the right side.
The Greyhounds were clearly the aggressor in the first half. Center Grove matched that aggressiveness the second half by setting the tone physically and pressuring the ball better.
Carmel, too, came close a number of times to breaking the deadlock for good.
McLaughlin, however, wasn’t feeling fortunate to get out with a tie.
“No. I never feel that with the team that I’ve got,” he said. “Our goal is to win every game that we play. I think each team had some real good opportunities. I think we were one touch away from putting a couple of goals in, and Carmel was the same thing.
“It’s a fair result. Do I feel fortunate? Absolutely not.”