INDIANAPOLIS — The Wheeler girls soccer team rode the roller coaster of emotions Saturday morning.
After 80 minutes of regulation, No. 1 Wheeler and No. 4 Evansville Mater Dei still needed more time to decide a state champ. In the second overtime, Miranda Nosko found the back of the net for 1-0 Mater Dei lead with 2:30 to go.
Bringing its attack forward, the Bearcats appeared to tie the match with a minute left as Lyric Green's header attempt rolled into the back of the net. A look to the sideline deemed otherwise, as and official ruled Green offsides thus taking away the goal.
Mater Dei captured the Class A State Championship, 1-0, at Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium at IUPUI.
"We all thought she was on," Wheeler coach Bryan Murray said. "The referee said at some point she came from the offside position back onside. From what it looked like to us, she was clearly onside when the ball was played. She may have been offsides at one point but that doesn't matter because it's when the ball is played. There was definite disagreement with that call, but it is what it is.
"That was a well-played game and neither team gave an inch. The girls competed and are left a little bit numb but that doesn't take away from what they did this year. It has been a phenomenal year and the girls came in confident and the state tournament did not intimate them. They fought through injuries and competed liked they've done all year."
The first half featured five shots apiece from each side. Mater Dei had the best chance in the opening half on a one-on-one opportunity with Anna Claybon that forced Bearcats goalie Cheyenne Foor to come off her line to make the save.
Green, who entered the game with 44 goals, got her first real chance in the 44th minute but her shot went just wide of the far post. Riley Garcia's shot on goal five minutes later forced a diving save and what would go on to be three successive corner kicks for Wheeler, all of which didn't result in a shot on goal.
With seven minutes remaining in regulation, Garcia had a golden opportunity with Mater Dei keeper Sabrina Henderson coming off her line leaving an open net. However, it cleared by Victoria Zigenfus just in front the goal line.
"We had a lot of good chances and at some point you'd think we were going to capitalize on that pressure," Murray said. "It was as physical of a game as you've seen in a long time between two teams wanting to win a state title."
Following a stalemate in the first OT, Nosko's shot off an assist by Morgan Gries found the back of the net with 2:30 to go for Mater Dei (13-6-4).
"Our center-backs tried to find it and Cheyenne cut the angle and there was just a girl on the backside for them. It was a deflected ball that found its way," Murray said.
Controversy ensued soon after as Wheeler appeared to tie the match when Green, who was playing through an ankle injury she aggravated late in the second half, scored on a header. As celebration and dismay on each side took place, the goal was taken off the board due to the offsides call.
"I felt like I was on, so I guess we'll just have to watch the film and see what actually happened," Green said. "That was a roller coaster. We thought we had a chance to go to penalty kicks and then that chance is just taken away from us."
Wheeler's Frani Zeitler was the recipient of the Mental Attitude Award.
"It's honestly an honor to win," she said. "Sometimes it can be tough keeping your head up in games, but I've worked really hard at keeping a positive attitude about everything going in soccer and it really makes all the difference. If you stay positive and keep working at things, you get results.
"Despite not winning this game, we've accomplished so much this year and I couldn't be more proud. I love my team and I'm glad with the way we played. We made history at Wheeler."
Murray spoke glowingly of his senior defender.
"Frani is a fantastic person," he said. "She just has a great ability to keep what's important in perspective and finding the right ways in life. I'm really proud of her hard work and how it paid off for her and the the school on the big stage. She's very deserving."
The Bearcats (21-1) graduate Foor, who made nine saves, along with Kaitlyn Asher, Delaney Bath and Zeitler.
"We have a lot of youth but at the same time, it was a great four-year run for our seniors," Murray said. "They showed good leadership and were critical to this game and this season as a whole. They set a good standard for the rest of the team to follow as we head into next year."