The Columbus East girls soccer team has been riding the foot of Alana Dwenger for much of this season and will need her to come through again in Thursday’s sectional opener against Franklin.

The freshman leads the Olympians with 15 goals and is tied for a team-high of six assists. East coach Ilya Schwartzman has known the Dwenger family for many years and said he had high expectations for Dwenger early on.

“We expected her to contribute from Day 1, and she has not disappointed,” Schwartzman said. “Whenever we evaluate the player, we evaluate their soccer skills, their physical maturity, their mental maturity and see what kind of a teammate they are.”

Dwenger is following in the footsteps of her sister Emma Dwenger, who set the school’s single-season record of 35 goals and currently sits second on the school’s career goals list. Alana started playing soccer at 4 years old, but really started getting into the sport when she began watching her sister’s games.

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Alana has the chance to play four years of varsity soccer to potentially pass the career goals mark that Emma set in just three years. Emma missed her first year because of a torn ACL.

“She has a lot (of goals), so it’s going to be hard,” Alana said. “If I work hard, I think I can catch her, possibly. We kind of go back and forth. Basically, we tease each other about trying to beat it.”

Schwartzman praised Alana for her work ethic and said she gives 100 percent to every activity in which she is involved. He is expecting her to continue to mature physically and become stronger and faster as her career progresses.

Alana is a student of the game who is always asking questions about how she can get better. She felt like she had to prove herself coming into the season, having such a significant role in her first year.

“I had to show that I could play,” Alana said. “I obviously had to be able to perform to the best of my abilities and be able to perform to the older players on the team.”

Alana has more than proved herself to the team. Although she would like to break her sister’s milestones in the future, her main focus is on Thursday’s match. The Olympians have won three of their past four games coming into the sectional.

Schwartzman said his team knows what’s at stake and expects his players to walk on the field mentally focused.

“I think we’re playing better with each other,” Alana said. “We’re connecting a little better. We got a really good sectional draw, so we need to work hard and perform well. I think we’ve been doing that.”

If you go

Columbus East Sectional

at Richard Wigh Soccer Complex

Thursday

5 p.m.: Columbus North-Greenwood winner vs. Center Grove-Whiteland winner

7 p.m.: Columbus East vs. Franklin

Saturday

7 p.m.: Championship

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Frank Bonner is a sports writer for The Republic. He can be reached at fbonner@therepublic.com or 812-379-5632.