By Luke Severt
For the Troy Daily News
CLAYTON — Tippecanoe junior Alyssa Toman dreamed of scoring a “super exciting goal.” Everyone does, she said, “but no, I didn’t really think it’d be me.”
Prior to Tuesday night, her team had accrued a total of 71 goals from 15 different players on the season. She was not one of them.
However, none of that seemed to matter on Tuesday, as she scored the game-winner against Springfield Shawnee at Northmont High School’s Premier Health Field as the one-seed Red Devils defeated the Braves, the fourth seed, 3-1 and were crowned sectional champions.
With 12 minutes remaining in the match, and the score locked at 1-1, Red Devil senior Kearsten Hill sent a corner kick into a scrum fighting for possession of the ball. From the crowd, a hero emerged.
Toman fell to the ground and her teammates briefly piled on her in celebration after redirecting the corner into the back of the net and giving her team a lead late in the match.
“It happened so fast I actually couldn’t believe it,” Toman said. “Seeing my team and everyone around in the crowd so excited made it feel really amazing to be able to step up and get a goal like that for them.”
It was the fourth corner kick in the span of less than three minutes for the Red Devils, as they were relentlessly pressuring the Shawnee defense yet just couldn’t seem to break through.
“To tell you the truth, I was calm,” Tippecanoe head coach Brandon Baker said. “I figured we’d get something, and you never know what you’re going to get with corners with it bouncing around. We got one in when it was just bouncing around and we got to it first. But yeah, I was calm with it.”
It was a rather shaky start for Baker’s squad on Tuesday, as their first half woes began when the team’s leading scorer, Hannah Rittenhouse, missed a penalty kick and an opportunity for her team to jump out to an early lead with 29 minutes left to play in the first half.
With four minutes left in the half, Shawnee’s Lena Jenssen dribbled the ball on the edge of the box as two Red Devil defenders were closing in on her from each side, and one was in pursuit from behind. She lunged forward as they convened, essentially flicking an unbalanced shot into the upper right corner of the goal and out of the wide reach of Tippecanoe goalkeeper Lauren Robbins, and Shawnee had the lead at the half.
“More or less just keep it simple,” said Baker on what he told his girls at halftime. “Just play our game, and to play together.”
With the Red Devils trailing 1-0 with 37 minutes left in the second half, sophomore Shelby Ferguson received a pass from a teammate and fired a shot.
She was 40 yards from the goal.
However, with the element of surprise and the brilliance of the kick — with perfect trajectory and power — Ferguson’s boot sailed high over the Shawnee goalkeeper’s head and into the net to tie the match.
As the match was coming to a close and the PA announcer was counting down the seconds remaining in the match, it was clear that the Red Devils had secured a win. He said “six, five, four” over the loudspeaker, but that was as far as he made it.
Ferguson repeated her feat from earlier in the half, with an almost identical long-distance goal that deflected off the Shawnee keeper’s hands and into the net with three seconds left in the match, guaranteeing a Red Devil victory and putting the icing on the cake that was an incredible sectional championship soccer match.
“We’ve been mostly a second-half team,” Baker said. “The girls understand what we need to do to get the win, and we proved it tonight. Our passes were good in the second half, and I knew when we got that first goal, we’d get more in. That’s just how we’ve been all year. It was a good second half for us.”
It’s the second sectional championship in two years for the Red Devils, as they reached the regional championship last season before falling to eventual state champion Indian Hill.
“It’s a great feeling to get this far,” Baker said about being sectional champions. “We play a lot of good teams, Shawnee is a very good team. We didn’t have the best first half, but we came out and had a heck of a second half. The girls wanted it more, and we got the three goals we needed.”
With the win, Tippecanoe will be advancing to a rematch against Indian Hill, this time in the district championship on Saturday at Lebanon High School, and will be hoping for a different result than the last time the two teams played.
“Practice is going be pretty hard these next couple of days,” Baker said. “We’re going to Cincinnati to play those teams, and it’s very tough. Indian Hill is the defending state champion, and we’ve got to play better than we did tonight.”
However, Baker believes that if they do so, they have the talent to make a deep run into the playoffs.
“When they play together, we have a very, very good team.”