Plenty of other girls soccer teams have great scorers putting up bigger numbers than Center Grove’s forwards have this season.

What makes the Trojans more dangerous is that they’re not reliant upon one or two players for goals.

Juniors Piper Belden and Megan Perry lead the team in scoring this season, but while their goal totals (10 apiece) might rank well behind some of the other top players in the area, those two have gotten plenty of help. Fifteen different Center Grove players have found the net this fall, and 18 have assists.

“It’s kind of nice when you do have talent and you have speed in a lot of different spots,” Trojans coach Mike Bishop said, “because it is hard for them to go, ‘Okay, we’re going to take that one player.’ All right, take them; we’ll just find other stuff.”

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For Perry, who has found herself more tightly marked by some teams in the past, says that having such a large supporting cast has taken pressure off of her and allowed her to share the scoring burden. She has a team-high six assists.

“If I play it to a person, I don’t have to try to get it back to take it myself,” Perry said. “It’s really, really helpful, and it makes things a lot easier and it makes us work together better.”

“It’s definitely easier knowing that we’re not the only ones who have the capability of scoring,” agreed Belden, who is second on the club with five assists. “We have our entire team behind us, so it definitely takes pressure off of us.”

That balance will be critical against a sectional field that will be far more difficult to navigate than in years past. A Martinsville team that won just once last season has been replaced with a strong Columbus East squad and a 10th-ranked Columbus North team that beat the Trojans 2-1 in the season opener.

The Bull Dogs have allowed just 11 goals this year.

Perry acknowledges that there might be some additional nerves this week with the tougher path, but notes that Center Grove knows what it’s up against.

“I think it won’t be that big of a deal if we really put our minds to it and work together,” she said, “because we have played (Columbus North) before and we know what they’re capable of — but we also know what we’re capable of.”

The Trojans always have high expectations, and many of the players on this year’s team still have bitter memories of last postseason, when the team was stunned in overtime by Franklin Central in a regional semifinal.

“We have a great senior class that leads well,” Bishop said, “and they’re not letting anyone forget that long bus ride home.”

If you go

Class 3A Columbus East Sectional

Today

Whiteland vs. Center Grove, 5 p.m.

Greenwood vs. Columbus North, 7 p.m.

Thursday

Today’s winners, 5 p.m.

Franklin vs. Columbus East, 7 p.m.

Saturday

Championship, 7 p.m.

Class A Cardinal Ritter Sectional

Today

International School of Indiana vs. Greenwood Christian, 5 p.m.

Covenant Christian vs. Speedway, 7 p.m.

Thursday

Today’s winners, 5 p.m.

Indianapolis Washington vs. Cardinal Ritter, 7 p.m.

Saturday

Championship, 7 p.m.

Sizing up the field

A look at what Johnson County’s teams are up against this week:

Class 3A Columbus East Sectional

Teams competing: Center Grove, Franklin, Greenwood, Whiteland, Columbus East, Columbus North

Favorite: Columbus North

Dark horse: Center Grove

Players to watch: Center Grove — Piper Belden, Emma Jones, Megan Perry, Molly Williams; Franklin — Emilie Hill, Sarah Sullivan; Greenwood — Veda Craig, Kayla Rance; Whiteland — Madi Bartak, Madison Hill, Madisyn Proctor, Emily Williams; Columbus East — Alana Dwenger, Addy Galarno, Morgan Martindale; Columbus North — Tanner Johnson, Corrine Orben, Kristen Orben, Liz Tynan

Outlook: The Trojans used to be able to waltz through their sectional, but no more. The draw got much tougher with the addition of the Class 3A No. 10 Bull Dogs, who opened the season with a 2-1 win over Center Grove. The host Olympians and Mid-State Conference co-champion Whiteland won’t be pushovers, either. Whoever makes it out of this field will have earned it.

Class A Cardinal Ritter Sectional

Teams competing: Greenwood Christian, Cardinal Ritter, Covenant Christian, Indianapolis Washington, International School of Indiana, Speedway

Favorite: Cardinal Ritter

Dark horse: Covenant Christian

Players to watch: GCA — Grace Apgar, Cameron Northern; Cardinal Ritter — Azul Aceves, Amara Allen, Emma Eifert; Covenant Christian — Alexandra David, Christine Martin; Speedway — Katelyn Chadwick, Hannah Lindsey

Outlook: The Cougars face a tough road, starting with a rematch against a Gryphons team that beat GCA earlier in the season, 4-2. Avenge that defeat, and a pair of top-20 teams (Ritter and Covenant) might be left standing in the way.

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