By GREG MENGELT
FLOYDS KNOBS — Saturday’s 5-0 win over Jeffersonville may have seemed easy for Floyd Central’s girls’ soccer team, but over the last year the Highlanders have learned winning sectionals is anything but a breeze.
A year ago, the Highlanders dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 shootout decision to rival New Albany in the Class 2A Floyd Central Sectional semifinals.
On Wednesday, the Highlanders needed a shootout to overcome Providence to advance to Saturday’s championships. So as easy as Saturday’s triumph may have looked, Floyd Central took the time to enjoy its sixth sectional title in eight years.
“This is really good for the seniors,” Floyd coach Lewie Stevens said. “I’ve been here for 15 years. I get lots of opportunities for these, but for the girls, especially the seniors, they’ll remember this forever. This is an outstanding group of seniors who have put in a lot of hard work the last four years.”
After last year’s disappointing loss — a game in which they led 2-0 at the half — the Highlanders came back in 2013 determined to get their title back.
“This means a lot because last year was so disappointing,” senior Ellie Stewart said. “This is awesome. Finally my senior year, we get to win sectional again.”
“Last year was hard but we came back strong,” Highlander senior McKenzie Garringer said.
In the early going Saturday, it looked like the Highlanders’ minds were stuck somewhere between Wednesday’s win over Providence and this week’s regional. For the first 17 minutes, the game was scoreless and Jeffersonville (4-10-3) had a couple of runout opportunities that had to be cleared late by the Floyd Central defense.
With 23:03 left in the opening half, freshman reserve Emma Pappas finally gave the Highlanders the lead for which they’d been searching.
“The first 10 minutes, I thought we were [flat],” Stevens said. “I was excited to see when our second unit got into the game, we got a couple of goals. That picked us up, then our effort was good across the board. When our starters went back in the game, they were sharp. It was good to see that our second group had that in them, that they were capable of picking us up.”
“I think the first 17 minutes, we were thinking about regionals, not sectionals,” Garringer said. “We were really in it. Once we started scoring, we picked it up and played like we should.”
Pappas then gave Floyd a 2-0 lead on a header on a corner kick with 19:21 left in the half.
“Emma’s really good at headers,” Stewart said. “She’s probably one of the better headers on our team.”
The assist on the corner kick came from freshman Halee Tanner. As strong as the Highlanders’ senior class is, Floyd showed throughout the tournament that it also has an abundance of youthful talent.
“We’re pleased with the future,” Stevens said.
Junior Christin Miller gave Floyd its third goal in 13 minutes on an assist from Garringer and Lauren Wyatt, who assisted on Pappas’s first goal, gave the Highlanders a 4-0 lead with 31.3 seconds left in the first half following Jeffersonville’s foul on freshman Samantha Garcia in the box.
Less than four minutes into the second half, Wyatt gave Floyd a 5-0 lead on a Kelsey Shireman assist and that’s the way it stood the rest of the way.
Floyd Central (13-5-2) will battle Class 2A No. 9 Evansville Memorial in the first round of Wednesday’s Jasper Regional. It will be the Highlanders’ 11th trip to the regional with only one regional title in 2000 to show for it.
“I’m hoping we’ll be able to get through to semistate. That would be really great if we could,” Stewart said.
Jeff keeper Ashlyn Crane had nine saves as the Highlanders out-shoot the Devils 27-3. Crane is one of eight Red Devil starters expected to return next season.
However, they will certainly miss senior captain Devan Carrier — an All-Area performer — along with Hannah Scott and Morgan Neeley.
“It’s the first time in years Jeff has won a sectional game,” a tearful Carrier said. “We worked really hard to get here and it was a really big step for the program.
CLASS 2A FLOYD CENTRAL SECTIONAL
FLOYD CENTRAL 5, JEFFERSONVILLE 0
Jeffersonville 0 0—0
Floyd Central 4 1—5
F — Emma Pappas (Lauren Wyatt), 23:03.
F — Pappas (Halee Tanner), 19:21.
F — Christin Miller (McKenzie Garringer), 10:33.
F — Wyatt (penalty kick), :31.3.
F — Wyatt (Kelsey Shireman), 36:45.
Shots: Jeffersonville 3, Floyd Central 27.
Shots on goal: Jeffersonville 2, Floyd Central 14.
Scoring chances: Jeffersonville 1, Floyd Central 23.
Saves: Jeffersonville — Ashlyn Crane 7, Team 1; Floyd Central — Jessica Coryell 2.
Corner kicks: Jeffersonville 1, Floyd Central 6.
Fouls: Jeffersonville 3, Floyd Central 4.
Cards: Jeffersonville — Bench (yellow).