Perhaps Lake Central shouldn't have been underestimated.
The Indians girls soccer team earned its 16th sectional trophy last week in Highland. Only one school in the state (Center Grove) has more. But L.C. was an admitted underdog coming into the postseason.
"For a variety of reasons we have had a rocky regular season. I think the last few games of the season and for sectional, we finally found the right formation for our offense and defense to be solid and everything else just clicked into place," junior Brianna Dougherty said. "We knew (the) sectional was our last chance to prove we could be a good team. We banded together and came out ready to prove it."
Dougherty has certainly provided her share of proof. She tallied a hat trick in the 5-2 sectional final win over Munster and had two goals in the opening win over Griffith.
"I think it was because I was on the field with girls who knew how to, and where to, feed me the ball so I could drive the net," Dougherty said. "My speed is one of my strengths when it comes to scoring. A lot of my goals come from breaking away from my defender and taking a shot on the goal."
She has 19 goals this season after her 14 regular-season goals are added to the sectional tally. It was that adjustment in formation and style that transformed Lake Central from underdog into favorite in Highland.
Only the girls in blue and white knew they could be this good.
Dougherty says the Indians didn't mind the lack of respect they were shown as the regular season came to a close, though. They still expected to be playing in the Valparaiso Regional this week.
"I don't believe we had a chip on our shoulder or that we were disrespected," Dougherty said. "Because of our tough regular season and after losing to Munster in the regular season I do believe that we had something to prove and we had our hearts set on winning the sectional."
L.C. will play host Valparaiso in the first round of the regional. The Vikings were also an underdog in their sectional. Lake Central won a 1-0 battle the first time the Duneland Athletic Conference powers met this year.
"Coming off of the rocky season we had, uncertain of the road that was ahead of us, then beating some tough teams in sectionals has really made all the hard work worth it," Dougherty said. "We have a lot of talented girls on our team and when we are on the field in the right formation, we are a strong team."