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EVANSVILLE — In its first semi-state appearance in seven years on Saturday, the Columbus East girls soccer team got off to a rocky start.
After that, the Class 2A Olympians played even with No. 2 Avon for nearly 68 minutes before the Orioles added a second goal in what would become a 2-0 Avon win.
“As I told the kids, you take the best team in the state to the limit ... I thought we played a great game,” East coach Ilya Schwartzman said of his team’s performance in the Evansville Harrison Semi-State. “We stayed with them, we had lots of opportunities, and I thought we had them on their heels a number of times. I’m so proud of the kids.”
The Orioles’ first goal came just 2:06 into the contest. The Olympians tried to clear a ball from in front of the goal, but it bounced right to Avon’s Marissa McDowell, who put it away.
After that, East (17-3-1) settled down and played up and down the field with the Orioles.
Although they managed only two shots on goal, the Olympians possessed the ball deep in Avon territory several times.
East’s best scoring opportunity came in the 53rd
Avon keeper Kelsey Dossey saved a close-range shot from Hayden Lang after Dossey had come out to challenge for a ball.
“They have a great goalie who made a couple of nice stops, and their defense was solid,” Schwartzman said. “But we gave them everything they could handle.”
“Especially when you go down to a team 1-0 that early, it’s mentally hard to stay in the game,” senior midfielder Sydney Newell said. “But we came back even stronger, so I’m proud of our whole team’s effort. We put everything we could into it. We have nothing to be ashamed of.”
Avon (16-2-3) added an insurance goal in the 70th minute when Cassidy Blacha put one just over the head of East keeper Spencer Eudy and under the crossbar from 25 yards.
“We made a mistake in the first five minutes,” Schwartzman said. “We couldn’t get the ball cleared out, and that gave them an opportunity for the first goal. The second goal was an absolutely unbelievable shot. There’s nothing we could do to stop that one.”
The Olympians repeated as Hoosier Hills Conference champions this season and won their first sectional and regional titles since 2006.
“It’s tough, but I think
it’s been an unforgettable season,” Newell said. “We’ve accomplished so much more than a lot of people thought we would. We’ve come a long way as a team, and I think it’s been a great season.”
“We had a phenomenal season,” Schwartzman said. “This is a phenomenal group of seniors. We should come off the field with our heads held high.”
Schwartzman appreciated the fan support his team received all year, including Saturday.
“We have great fans,” he said. “They’ve been unbelievable throughout the season. They were great today. They’ve supported us throughout, and I just want to say ‘Thank you’ to all of them.”
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