PLYMOUTH — Highland striker Jen Sheehan never left the pitch on Kindt Field against South Bend St. Joseph on Saturday in the Class 2A Plymouth Regional.
And neither did many of her Trojan teammates for 80 minutes, but the Indians just had too much firepower and posted a 4-0 victory in the second semifinal game. West Lafayette dominated Northwood 6-0 in the opener.
“All you can ask from your kids is to give a 100 percent, and that’s what I just told them,” Highland coach Courtney Condes said. “If you gave me everything and you left everything on the field, that’s all we can ask.”
Sydney Vasile scored less than three minutes into the contest to give St. Joe a 1-0 lead to put Highland (12-7) in a chase mode from the early going. Highland had trouble getting the ball inside the box on the offensive end against St. Joe’s airtight defense.
Sheehan made a nice dribble around a defender to get free for a good shot on goal with 16 minutes and 45 seconds left in the first half. She also made a nice centering pass in the box, but Highland couldn’t convert the play with 7:20 remaining in the half.
“We had some good chances,” Sheehan said. “We just couldn’t finish plays. At the half we both had seven shots each. They finished theirs, and we didn’t.”
On the counter attack, St. Joe’s Georgia Place scored her first of three goals on an unassisted play to push the advantage to 2-0 with 5:18 left.
“The ball drops in the box and you’re not marked up, that’s when goals and opportunities happen for the other team,” Condes said. “Unfortunately, that put us behind and we had to claw back from that. It was a hard second half to come back into that, but our kids worked hard, they didn’t give up.”
St. Joe (17-4-1) kept the pressure on at the start of the second half, and Place found the net again to give the Indians a 3-0 lead with 37:27 left in the game.
Highland junior goalkeeper Morgan Rinkema was kept busy all game long, but she came up with nine saves — some of the spectacular variety.
“She’s one of the best goalkeepers I’ve seen, and I’ve been around soccer a long time,” Condes said. “She’s athletic, she’s smart. She can get the high balls, the low balls. She’s one of the best in the area if not the state.”
Highland never quit attacking, and Lauren Gora struck a nice ball from just outside the box St. Joe keeper Kamryn Wieschhaus made a good save to preserve the shutout. Place completed her hat trick with a goal on a cross from Caroline Edmonds for the final count.
The Trojans did their best to remain positive about the season that produced a second straight sectional title and its fifth overall.
“We really gelled together, and this was like the most close team that we’ve ever had, which was really nice,” Rinkema said. “... The season was a lot like that, but it’s still really difficult to give it your all and not be able to come out on top.”