By Josh Brown
CENTERVILLE – The Tippecanoe girls soccer team got the regional final matchup they wanted.
The result, however, just wasn’t to be.
Indian Hill – the No. 1-ranked team in the state’s final regular season poll, which defeated the Red Devils 2-1 all the way back on the season’s opening day – scored four unanswered goals in the game’s first 50 minutes and put the match away, defeating Tippecanoe 4-1 in Saturday’s Division II regional championship match at Centerville’s Alumni Stadium.
The Red Devils, which finished the season 16-4-1, upset Alter – the state’s No. 2-ranked team – in the district final to get to this point. But Indian Hill, which improved to 20-0-1 and advanced to next week’s state semifinal round, proved to be another matter altogether.
“Hey, we played hard,” Tippecanoe coach Brandon Baker said. “They’re a great team. If everything goes right, they’ll probably win state. I think we were prepared, but it just didn’t happen for us today.”
The Braves took control from the start, putting heavy pressure on a Tippecanoe defense that had only given up 10 goals all season going into Saturday’s game. Five minutes into the game, Indian Hill ripped a 30-yard shot that hit off the underside of the crossbar but didn’t cross the goal line, and Devil keeper Claire Hinkle was able to get the ball clear.
But with 29:33 left in the first half, the Braves broke through on an impossible play to defend. The Braves sent a 45-yard diagonal cross into the box, and Morgan Jackson redirected the ball into the net with a header to make the score 1-0 Indian Hill.
“That was one of the things we were worried about coming in, their set pieces,” Baker said. “They’re really strong up front with both Jackson and (Anna) Podojil. We tried to mark them both up, but as the game goes on, it gets tougher and tougher to mark them up all the time.”
Midway through the first half, Hinkle stuffed a one-on-one breakaway by Indian Hill’s Bea Fries, but the Red Devils never could mount a counterattack. And with 6:49 left in the half, Margo David hammered home a 25-yarder over the keeper’s head and in to make it a 2-0 game.
Shortly after that, the Braves added some more insurance as Jackson got her second goal of the day on a deflection, putting the Devils down 3-0 with 5:15 left until the break.
Tippecanoe had its first and best chance to that point with less than two minutes to go in the half. Hannah Rittenhouse sent a pass that sprung Lauren Lester on a breakaway, but she hit a 30-yard shot that was saved by the keeper. Lester then knocked another ball off the post, and a Devil player seemed to be in position to knock in the rebound – but she missed the ball in the air, and the Braves were able to clear, allowing them to maintain a 3-0 lead at halftime.
“Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don’t,” Baker said. “Yeah, that would’ve been big for us going into the half. We had some opportunities that we needed to finish on, but when you don’t, you just move on and keep fighting.”
Jackson scored the backbreaker with 33:42 left in the game, putting home a breakaway goal to finish off her hat trick and make it 4-0. Tippecanoe mounted some sustained pressure in the game’s final 10 minutes, with Hannah Chaplin scoring to break up the shutout with 9:18 to play, but the Braves were able to hold on from there.
It was Tippecanoe’s first regional final appearance since 2014, when they lost 3-1 to McNicholas. The Devils’ last victory over Indian Hill came in 2013, a 3-2 win, with Tippecanoe going 0-3-2 against the Braves since then.
“Overall, I think we did well,” Baker said. “We had a great season. I told the girls that no matter what happened, it’s been an awesome run. We’re going to miss our seniors. They played all out for us this year. But obviously we’ll come back and reload like we always do and get back at it. But I’m proud of everybody and how they played.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.