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ST. LEON — Forgive the Columbus East girls soccer players if they’re feeling a little “elite” today.
The Class 2A No. 20 Olympians secured their first Elite Eight berth in school history Saturday night with a 3-0 win over New Castle in the East Central Regional final. It’s East’s third regional title and the first since 2006, but the first two times, 16 teams made it to the semi-state round.
“It’s so exciting for us,” senior forward Rachel Amlung said. “We’ve been waiting for this, our seniors especially for four years, so it feels great to win.”
Amlung put the Olympians (17-2-1) on the board less than two minutes into the game. After Molly Macy thwarted a potential New Castle breakaway, East moved the ball forward to Amlung, who put a move on a defender at the top of the box and drilled a shot past Trojan goalkeeper Sara Leyes.
“Before the game we said we needed to come out strong because we knew that New Castle was going to come out extremely quick,” Amlung said. “We knew we had to come out stronger and pressure harder, so that was ultimately what I was doing. I was in the right place at the right time.”
New Castle (15-3) immediately threatened again, but the Olympians cleared the ball from in front of the net. That led to East’s second goal in the first six minutes, a Hayden Lang finish on a cross from Sydney Newell.
“That’s my favorite shot,” Lang said. “Sydney laid it off right to me, and I had a lot of space, so I kind of nailed it.”
“It definitely was huge,” East coach Ilya Schwartzman said. “It gave us some momentum and put them on their heels a little bit, and that gave us a chance to kind of start playing our game. We came out and pressured them well. They had a couple of chances, but we got organized and started playing well and created opportunities.”
The Olympians dominated the rest of the first half and had a few opportunities to build on its lead. East did break through for a third goal with 47 seconds left in the half when Newell scored off a pass from Bailey Dowd.
“To have a 3-0 lead going into the second half is always a good thing,” Newell said.
Newell’s assist on Lang’s goal gave Newell the school’s all-time assist record with 61.
“It’s really cool, but the cooler feeling is winning as a team and making it farther than we ever have,” Newell said. “I think that’s the highlight of the night. Words can’t even describe it. It’s been an incredible season.”
The Olympians outshot the Trojans 25-6, putting 16 shots on goal to two for New Castle. Spencer Eudy played the first 71 minutes in goal for East and recorded two saves, and Bryn Eudy played the final nine minutes in goal.
“Our goalies, Spencer and Bryn, have been phenomenal the whole season making stops,” Schwartzman said. “The back four with Olivia (Smith), Elisa (Watkins), Molly (Macy) and Kris (Bellinger) have been absolutely solid, and Kayla Halterman came off the bench most of the season. They’re tenacious.
“(Olivia Darnell) and Hayden have been unbelievable at defensive mids marking, covering and distributing,” he said. “Sydney does a lot of work in the middle and covers the field well and distributes. Molly Connor has had a phenomenal year. Danielle (Rodgers) and Bailey on the wings — just a great effort. Rachel has been superb all season getting the ball, controlling and giving us an opportunity to attack.”
The Olympians will play Avon (15-2-3) in the Evansville Harrison Semi-state at 11 a.m. EDT (10 a.m. CDT) Saturday at the Coke Fields in Evansville. Center Grove (14-3-3) and Evansville Memorial (17-3-2) will meet in the other semifinal, and the championship will be at 7 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. CDT) Saturday.
“It’s so awesome,” Lang said. “That feels amazing. I don’t think anything can feel better than this.”
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