PORTER TWP. — When Lexi Darnell steps on the soccer field, the other team’s scouting report usually has her name on it.
Boone Grove’s junior forward has a team-high 34 goals this season and led the Wolves to their fourth sectional championship plus first regional title in school history. She has scored in all four postseason matches, and her seven goals are highlighted by a hat trick against Covenant Christian in the Class A LaVille Regional semifinals.
Darnell credited her hot streak to her teammates, coach Ken Burbridge and assistant coach John Karson, who specifically works with the players one-on-one.
“Anything we ask of her this year, we’re actually seeing it happen, and with ease,” Karson said. “Yeah, other teams say, ‘All we have to do is stop her from scoring.’ And for her to put in a goal on top of that? It’s pretty exciting and shows her ability.”
Earlier this year, Darnell broke the program record for career goals (previously 89), and she scored her 100th goal in an overtime win over Andrean at home in the sectional championship. The junior never envisioned making history at Boone Grove and said as a freshman she just wanted to net 50 goals during her high school career.
Now that she has more than doubled that total (104 goals), Darnell is honored but not satisfied — especially when it comes to this season.
The Indiana State Coaches Association’s No. 15 Wolves will face No. 1 Lafayette Central Catholic in the Class A Kokomo Semistate championship Saturday and are hoping to advance to their first state title game.
“Even just going to semistate, people are like, ‘Wow, Boone Grove, that’s a really small school right next to the cornfields. But look at them way out there going to semistate,’” Darnell said jokingly with a laugh. “But regardless, I think people are really proud of us, which is nice.
“And for the team, winning (semistate) would mean everything.”
Darnell also knows it would mean a lot to her coach, who has reminded his fearless 5-foot-4 leader and her teammates all year that they could do something special.
“She’s like your female version of (Argentinian star Lionel) Messi,” Burbridge said of Darnell. “She can take not just one or two but even three girls on. She’s always had the goals, and she’s always been good at finishing. In the past, people were able to body her off of the ball a lot. But she’s worked so hard in the weight room, and she’s just much stronger now.”
First-year athletic director Joshua Russell used to be one of Darnell’s teachers at Boone Grove before moving over to the athletic department. He made the trip to LaVille last weekend and presented the Wolves with the regional championship trophy after Darnell’s goal in the 42nd minute lifted the team to a 1-0 victory.
Following back-to-back regional titles by the boys program in 2017 and 2018, Russell commended Darnell for helping the girls squad claim its first regional crown and setting a great example for all student-athletes at the school.
“Lexi is one of the most driven students that I’ve had,” Russell said. “She excels in the classroom, as well as on the field. And one thing that we’ve been able to see this year is that she’s stepping into a leadership role. She has been great with some of the younger girls we have.”
Boone Grove has started four freshmen this season, including goalkeeper Holly Kerr, and Darnell admitted that they’re all a bit anxious ahead of Saturday’s game.
With an opportunity to knock off the Knights — who have won 13 consecutive games and two straight regional crowns — the junior believes it will come down to a balance of having fun and seizing the moment.
“We have the potential to do things that Boone Grove girls soccer hasn’t done before. We already have,” Darnell said. “Winning regionals was a first, and I think we can keep going.”