FISHERS–Moments after the season ended for the Pendleton Heights girls’ soccer team, the players walked quietly off the field together. Some were crying, others were smiling, and a pair of teammates had their arms around each other’s shoulders, comforting one another. But all walked with their heads held high, refusing to allow a disappointing end to detract from an otherwise successful season.
Following a scoreless first half, the Hamilton Southeastern Royals scored three times in the second half Thursday, to knock off the Arabians 3-0 and advance to the sectional championship.
The Pendleton Heights season ends at 13-4-1 and includes a share of the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship. The 7th ranked Royals improved to 13-5-1 and will play Noblesville for the sectional title Saturday.
Arabian coach Mark Davy gave credit to the Royals, who seemed to always be in the right place at the right time, severely limiting PHHS opportunities to score.
“They space the field very well,” Davy said. “If you overcommit, they make you pay for it. They’re a solid team, it will be interesting to see them in the finals.”
Five minutes into the second half, the Royals got on the board when freshman Izzie Wallace scored on a header off a pass from junior Claire Wilkinson for a 1-0 lead.
Nine minutes later, the Arabians got their best opportunity to score. Leading scorer Taylor Fort got control of the ball in the box with the goalie out of position, but the Arabian junior’s shot hit the crossbar.
“Down 1-0, with that opportunity, if we put that away, it’s a totally different game,” Davy said. “Credit to (Taylor) for being in the right place in the right time. No discredit to her, she’s been there all year for us, just unfortunate there.”
The Royals made it 2-0 in the 61st minute on a goal from sophomore Layla Brown.
Juniors Helena Talbot, Leonie Wilson, and Claire Fendel had long shot opportunities during the last six minutes but none found their mark.
Freshman Molly Harris added the third Royal goal with under two minutes remaining for the final margin.
This game marked the final game for eight seniors, including starters Shayla Meinders, Kate Cowger, and Deisdy Rodriguez. Davy said this year’s group of seniors is special to him and the program.
“A lot of people thought we’d be down in the leadership category this year,” he said. “But those eight seniors brought that everyday. That’s a big reason why we had success this year.”
“We return the bulk of our starters,” he said. “We’re going to miss the heck out of these seniors, but they’ve left the program in a better place than they found it.
Leading scorers Fort and Talbot as well as key starters Wilson, Fendel, Megan Green, Riley Schrink, and Lexi Hill all return next season.