HIGHLAND — All week long, Highland girls soccer coach Courtney Condes preached focusing on the moment.
She wanted her players prepared to face any and all challenges to come their way.
So when Highland’s sectional finals match against Clark got delayed 35 minutes due to storms only to be played on a soaked pitch, Condes kept saying what she’s said all along—focus. Her Trojans listened and defeated the Pioneers 8-0 to claim the sectional crown and advance to a regional game against South Bend St. Joseph.
“We knew coming into this game we had to focus to get a trophy in our hands,” Condes said. “They did just that.”
Highland dominated the match throughout the 80 minutes. Freshman Hailey Rudloff broke through in the 10th minute with the first of her three goals on the night. Senior Jennifer Sheehan and freshmen Hannah Wieklinski, Morgan Juarez and Je’Lah Jernigan all also picked up scores.
For Sheehan, the sectional championship was especially rewarding because she said she got to earn it with classmates that have been lifelong friends.
“It’s awesome just knowing that we’ve grown up together playing soccer,” she said. “We had this goal, and we did it. We’re all just really happy.”
Sheehan admitted the wet grass made for tough conditions that only got worse as the temperature dropped throughout the night but said she was pleased with how her team responded. They never let Clark make a threat at taking control of the game.
“I think we all did a nice job of focusing in on being locked in,” Sheehan said. “We just kept thinking this is the game. This is our season.”
Clark senior goalkeeper Sasha Corral made seven saves on the evening but never got enough offensive help.
Pioneer head coach Mary Eggers said she considered the season a rebuilding year because of a completely reconstructed defense. She also said she hopes the offense continues to grow over the offseason and into next year.
“We’re said to see our seniors go, but we have a lot to work with in our junior and sophomore classes,” Eggers said. “We’re looking forward to next year.”
Highland, meanwhile, can turn its attention to next week.
Condes will continue to harp on staying short-sighted with the next practice being the most important until the one after that. She said she feels her 2017 team has the ability to make a deep run through regionals and perhaps even make school history by becoming only the second Highland girls soccer team to head to semistate.
But that’s all down the road. For now, Condes only wants her team looking at what’s immediately in front of them with a sectional trophy in tow.
"They really deserved this,” she said. “They worked hard and came prepared. Everything is a factor, and for them to do what they did to win, I’m very proud of them.”