During its last two matches, the Center Grove girls soccer team has been a lot like water pushing up against a dam.
Sooner or later, the constant pressure becomes too much to contain.
Host Franklin held for as long as it could during Saturday morning’s sectional championship, but the Trojans picked up a couple of goals late in the first half and then rode the momentum and a stiff October wind to a 6-0 triumph.
Center Grove (12-4-1) will face Franklin Central in a regional semifinal Wednesday afternoon at Shelbyville.
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The Grizzly Cubs had that wind at their backs in the first half, and they were able to use it to their advantage, creating numerous scoring opportunities. They did not, however, cash in on their chances — and the Trojans did.
With 4:47 to go in the first half, Center Grove’s Lillie Owens lofted a direct kick toward the net from nearly 30 yards out. Franklin goalie Allison Barnard appeared to lose the shot in the sun, and the ball sailed in over her head to put the visitors on top.
Athena Passafiume added a backbreaking second goal just minutes later, punching home a loose ball that had rolled just in front of the goal mouth with 1:31 left before halftime.
“I think that was definitely important,” Owens said of the quick one-two punch, “and it put us in a good place for the second half.”
Once the teams changed sides after the break, things began to snowball pretty quickly. Braxton Gentry and Kelli Hippenmeyer scored less than three minutes apart to make it a 4-0 game with 24:56 remaining, and Isabelle Andersen and Emmie Ward tacked on late goals for the Trojans.
Center Grove coach Mike Bishop said that the goals by Owens and Passafiume just before halftime really changed the tone of the match and helped his team shift the momentum in its favor.
“We got away with making mistakes early and it didn’t cost us,” Bishop said, “and we were fortunate to get that one goal to kind of get us started.”
Franklin coach David Young said his team had more chances to score in the first 30 minutes than it did during all of last year’s sectional match against Center Grove, which was decided in a shootout after 94 scoreless minutes.
The inability to convert on them, though, proved costly.
“We’ve got to finish those balls in, the set pieces,” Young stated. “We’ve got to finish. And I think it’s a different story at the end of the day if you get one of those.”
The loss was a deflating end to the season for the Grizzly Cubs (8-9-2), but despite the impending loss of 10 seniors — including top scorer Delanie Hill — Young is optimistic about the future.
“We’ve got some really good returning players next year,” he said. “We’ve got some really good underclassmen that played JV, and we’ll get busy in the offseason and we’ll come back next year even stronger.”