Take away the first three minutes of each half, and Wednesday’s girls soccer match between Carmel and Center Grove was a fiercely contested battle for the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference title.

Unfortunately for the Trojans, those opening minutes happened, and the Class 3A No. 3 Greyhounds capitalized in both halves to secure a 2-0 victory and the league championship.

Kelsie James rammed a shot home just 1:45 into the match to give Carmel (13-1-2, 7-0) the only offense it needed.

“You hope you don’t get rung up the first two minutes of the game for a goal,” Center Grove coach Mike Bishop said, “but it’s one of those things. Carmel’s a solid team. They’re 3; they probably should be number 1 or 2.”

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Trojan netminder Ella Thompson prevented it from getting worse in the 15th minute when she was able to tip a Carmel free kick just over the crossbar.

After repeatedly running into an invisible wall early on, Center Grove finally started generating some opportunities, including a particularly dangerous one off a Gracyn Montfort corner kick in the 28th minute but couldn’t get on the board before halftime.

The inability to come up with an equalizer stung more when Carmel again pounced quickly after the break. Susie Soderstrom beat Thompson with a well-placed shot from the left side just 2:40 into the second half, and Greyhound goalie Emily Melchi snuffed out a Trojan opportunity moments later, just beating a charging Piper Belden to a lead pass from Athena Passafiume.

The scoring chances started coming more frequently at both ends midway through the second half, but each time the Trojans got to the doorstep, Melchi seemed to be in position to make a stop.

She stopped all five shots she faced, including a late breakaway strike by Megan Perry. Thompson made six saves at the other end.

Bishop still feels good about where the 20th-ranked Trojans (9-4-3, 5-1-1) sit heading into next week’s sectional.

“We spent the first 16 matches of the season figuring out formations, figuring out tactics, figuring out personnel, all that stuff; figuring out what makes players tick and how to get the most out of them,” he said. “So hopefully, when we get to Whiteland on Tuesday down in Columbus, we’ll be able to put it all together and play our game.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.