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After winning the North Sectional title Saturday at the Richard Wigh Soccer Complex, the Columbus North boys soccer players navigated a human tunnel that was about the same height as last year.
The bar, though, keeps getting higher for the defending state champion Bull Dogs, who put away Seymour 6-0 after a scoreless first half.
“It’s just another step,” said North senior forward Keaton Voegerl, who admitted that the team wasn’t getting all that charged up over a sectional championship. The Bull Dogs (17-0-1) have their sights set way higher.
If they want to achieve those dreams of back-to-back state championships, they most likely won’t be able to stumble as they did in the first half against the Owls, who they beat 8-0 earlier in the season.
“We came out a little slow,” said Voegerl, who scored the game’s first goal at 47:22 mark after taking a pass from Riley Belding that threaded the defense. “We were playing nonchalant.”
On the sideline, North senior Andre Abedian was squirming. Abedian had sat out North’s first two sectional games after cutting a huge gash in his left knee running into a goal post in the regular season finale.
He also didn’t play in the first half against Seymour because conventional wisdom was that he wasn’t needed.
“I really felt that we hadn’t tested their keeper (Chase Salmon) in the first half,” Abedian said. “I wasn’t worried because I have faith in all our guys, but I told Coach (Andy Glover) that I could play.”
Just under five minutes into the second half, Abedian had his chance when the Seymour defense cleared the ball away from the goal mouth toward the middle of the field. Alone about 25 yards out, Abedian hit a bullet of a shot that beat Salmon to his left. North had taken a 2-0 lead and, considering Seymour mounted few offensive threats to that point, it appeared the game was in the bag.
After such a spirited effort to that point, the Owls sunk a bit, and North picked up its aggression. Voegerl was tackled in the box, and Belding converted the penalty kick for a 3-0 lead with 34:53 remaining in the game. Then with 32:17 left, midfielder William Bridgeman smashed a free kick to Belding, who converted for his second goal of the game and a 4-0 lead.
North senior Ethan Smith, who had been a force throughout the sectional playoffs, scored North’s fifth goal when he sent a penalty kick past Salmon and Bull Dogs junior Ed Meyer completed the scoring on a pass from Bridgeman at the 71:59 mark.
It was a disappointing end for Seymour, which finished 8-9-1.
“We worked hard at being first to the ball in the first half,” Owls coach Matt Dennis said. “I thought we had an unbelievable effort.”
Included in that first-half effort was Salmon, a senior, making a fantastic save on Hugh Hamill’s penalty shot. Salmon dove to his left to smother Hamill’s low liner. It gave the Owls a shot of energy.
“That penalty save was huge,” Dennis said. “We’re going to miss that three-year starter.”
Salmon said his team played with more intensity than North in the first half.
“We played with heart,” he said. “It wasn’t enough.
“They are solid at every position. It is so hard to get past them. But we had our hopes up. We played as hard as we could.”
North will host the regional at the Wigh Soccer Complex and will begin play 8 p.m. Thursday against Bloomington South. The 6 p.m. game matches Connersville against East Central.
Columbus North Regional
6 P.M. : Connersville vs. East Central
8 P.M.: Bloomington South vs. Columbus North
2 p.m.: Championship
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