Columbus North was hit hard by graduation after winning a girls soccer regional last season, but that hasn’t stopped the Bull Dogs from putting together another big season.

North won its second consecutive regional title, this time in the first year of Class 3A, Saturday when it posted 1-0 wins against Floyd Central and Bloomington South. The 13th-ranked Bull Dogs will play No. 4 Guerin Catholic in the semistate at 3 p.m. Saturday at Lawrenceburg.

North has made it back to the semistate despite losing 10 seniors, including five starters from last year.

“We have a couple of freshmen that have come in and be major contributors to the program from Day 1,” North coach Derek Stewart said. “We’re not that deep, but overall, we’ve been able to stay healthy with a small number of players, and it’s paid off for us.”

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One of those freshmen, Lauryn Whitley, scored the lone goal in the regional final victory. The other, Kate Kolhouse, is a starting center back.

The Bull Dogs (14-3-2) used only three bench players against Floyd Central and two against Bloomington South. One of those players, senior defender Anna Andrews, returned after missing most of the season with a concussion.

“That’s one of the things we discussed early in the season — we need 80-minute players,” Stewart said. “We’ve had players step up and fill those roles.”

Senior forward Tanner Johnson leads North with 18 goals, including eight in the postseason. Sophomore midfielder Caroline Hollenkamp has nine goals, and senior outside back Corrine Orben and junior center back Elise Whitley each have four assists.

Stewart credited his defense, which includes Elise Whitley, Kolhouse, Orben, senior outside back Jocelyn Maynard and senior goalkeeper Liz Tynan for its performance in Saturday’s shutouts.

“We’re very happy with our defense,” Stewart said. “The back line is solid. Liz Tynan is playing extremely well. Every time we play, we rely on that defense. They’re playing well, and I couldn’t be happier with them.”

That defense will have to come up big again on Saturday if the Bull Dogs hope to get through to the state finals. Guerin Catholic (15-1-1) has outscored its opponents 60-2 and is ranked No. 1 in the country by MaxPreps.com.

Senior Elle Vuotto leads the Golden Eagles with 14 goals, while freshman Quincy McMahon has 11 goals and 17 assists and Florida recruit Cassidy Lindley has 10 goals. The Guerin defense is led by Megan Wampler, who is headed to Dayton and Marian recruit Claire Gavin, who has a 0.14 goals-against average.

“Guerin is a top-notch program,” Stewart said. “They’re definitely a very competitive, tough team. We’re going to have to step up our game to compete against them.”

Guerin is only in its 11th year of having a full girls soccer program. The school started in 2005 and had coed soccer teams its first two years. It had a girls program for the first time in 2007.

Jonathan McClure took over in 2008 and led the Golden Eagles to the semistate finals. They made it back there again in 2009, then broke through with a state finals appearance in 2010.

That year — the final year of the one-class system in soccer — North beat Guerin on penalty kicks in the state semifinals after the teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation and overtime. Stewart and McClure remember that as being a physical contest.

“What I expect on Columbus North is for them to be strong and physical,” McClure said. “It should be a good game. I’m looking forward to it.”

When soccer went to two classes in 2011, Guerin was in the lower half of enrollment in the state and likely would have been a favorite to win the Class A state title. But McClure wanted his team to face the challenge of playing against the best, and that meant playing in the same 2A sectional as powerhouse teams such as Carmel and Zionsville.

The Golden Eagles broke through last year with a win against Carmel in the sectional finals, but lost to Brebeuf Jesuit in the regional. This year, Guerin again beat Carmel in the sectional final after the Greyhounds had knocked off Brebeuf in the semifinals.

“I think that our preparation has allowed us to play with the best teams in the state,” McClure said. “You know in the back of your mind maybe conceding Class A state titles prepares the kids for life, which is a much bigger thing than what we’re doing on the field.”

If you go

What: Girls soccer semistate

When: 3 p.m. Saturday

Where: Lawrenceburg High School

Who: Columbus North (14-3-2) vs. Guerin Catholic (15-1-1)

Admission: $10

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.