After being upset by Franklin Central in last year’s regional, the Center Grove girls soccer team was intent on putting its opponent away early in Tuesday’s sectional-opener.
The Class 3A No. 19 Trojans got a goal in the first five minutes but then didn’t put away Whiteland until the game’s final 10 minutes. Still, Center Grove came away with a 2-0 win to advance to a semifinal matchup against 3A No. 13 Columbus North.
“Any goal during playoffs is huge because it just takes one lucky bounce, and it’s a goal,” senior Athena Passafiume said. “So we always come into playoffs ready to go, knowing that every team is No. 1 to us because anything can happen.”
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Passafiume gave the Trojans (10-4-3) their first goal in the fifth minute when she took a pass from Piper Belden and put it past Warriors goalkeeper Jenny Gonzalez.
The second goal didn’t come until the 71st minute, when Kiyah Yeast finished a pass from Braxton Gentry.
“We had to make sure we got on them early, which is what I wanted them to do,” Center Grove coach Mike Bishop said. “In the tournament, you can’t let teams hang around. They’ll bury you if you do, and we’ve seen that year in and year out, so it was one of those where we needed to get the second goal sooner than we did.”
The Trojans outshot Whiteland 21-7, putting 11 shots on goal to four for the Warriors (12-4-1). Gonzalez finished with nine saves, while Center Grove’s Ella Thompson recorded four.
Whiteland set a school record for wins in a season.
“I was satisfied with how we were able to put up a fight against a really competitive team, and I really respect the fact that the girls did not give up,” Whiteland coach Abby Gross said. “It was difficult having to try to recover from that early goal. It threw us off for a little bit, but I’m proud of the way they played this entire season. We really worked at breaking records and closing the gap against really competitive teams like Center Grove.”
In the nightcap, Columbus North used three first-half goals from Tanner Johnson and went on to down Greenwood 4-1. The Woodmen’s goal came from Kayla Rance.
The Bull Dogs outshot Greenwood (10-7) 28-6, putting eight shots on goal to four for the Woodmen. Greenwood’s Maddy Moan posted four saves.
“They’re a good team, and we knew that,” Greenwood coach Joe Mushrush said. “We knew it was a tough draw. Getting that first goal was key. We wish we could have pressed on and gotten a couple more.”