BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
ARGOS –- Eight different players scored a goal as the Argos girls soccer team routed Culver 8-0 in a Class 1A, Sectional 35 semifinal at Argos’ Eugene Snyder Field Oct. 7.
The win improved No. 5 Argos to 14-2-2 on the season and advanced them to the sectional final.
The Lady Dragons will next play LaVille. The Lady Lancers blanked North Miami 4-0 in the other semifinal. Argos is seeking their fourth straight sectional title.
Argos has knocked Culver out of the sectional three times in the last six years. Culver did not field a squad in 2014 and 2015 due to lack of numbers and returned to the pitch in 2016.
Eight of Argos’ 14 wins have been by shutout.
Argos coach Joe Stone said his players were motivated by some apparent trash talk, though he declined to elaborate.
“They’re playing really hard, really well,” Argos coach Joe Stone said of his team. “There was some little added motive right there because there was some texting and some tweeting and all that stuff and people do. … They’re going back and forth with each other, so there was a little motive there.”
Culver finished 14-4. This marked their first shutout loss of the season. Culver had scored 87 goals in their previous 17 games, but they managed just two shots on goal.
“That’s why they’re the number five team in the state of Indiana,” Culver coach A.J. Neace said afterwards about the pressure that Argos applies. “They are a very good ballclub. I take nothing away from them. Nine out of 10 times, they beat us. Tonight was one of those nine.”
Culver played without senior goalkeeper Sophia Heath. Neace said Heath suffered two fractured vertebrae and a lacerated kidney in a 4-3 win over Rochester in the quarterfinals two days earlier.
Neace said Heath would be in a wheelchair for “two to three weeks” while she heals and said freshman Katie Schouten did “a heck of a job” replacing Heath.
The final 38:29 were played with a running clock after Argos assumed a five-goal lead.
Carleigh Miller scored first just 1:58 into the game, cashing in off a Bella Stults corner kick. The goal was Miller’s first of the season.
She said the seniors all perform a different role on the team. She described her role on the team as “peacekeeper.”
“It went in off a corner and just sacrificed the body to try and get it in there,” Miller said. “It kind of set the tone for the whole team to move forward and keep pushing.”
Hannah Trump pounced on a failed Culver clearance and scored unassisted with 34:17 left in the half to make it 2-0.
Stults made it 3-0 with a left-footed finish to the back corner of the net past Culver goalkeeper Katie Schouten at the 23:03 mark.
Lauren McGlothin’s long direct kick found its mark with 13:20 left in the half to make it 4-0.
Lilly Hines scored her team-leading 24th goal of the season when she rocketed a shot to the back left corner of the net just 1:31 into the second half. That made it 5-0 and started the running clock.
Hines was briefly benched in the first half, even though Stone said Hines is capable of scoring “at will.”
“She just needed to calm down a little bit,” Stone said. “She’s such a good scorer and a prolific scorer, but if she doesn’t score in the first 10 minutes, her young mind sometimes gets in her own head. So sometimes, you’ve just got to take them out and have them take a break and talk to them.”
Emma Dunlap scored off a Kadyn Baughman assist with 33:10 left to make it 6-0.
Aryanna Allen’s goal with 27:37 left made it 7-0.
Amanda Fajardo scored her first career varsity goal with 6:20 left, putting in a rebound after a scramble in front of the net.
Stone said his team is grounded and humble.
“It’s win or go home, so we take nobody lightly,” Stone said.
Culver has improved from eight wins to 10 wins to 14 wins over the last three seasons. Kaylee Hamilton, Giselle Villegas and Kassidy Banks, who combined for 64 of the 87 goals, are expected back next year.
“We’ve improved a lot,” Neace said. “I lose four seniors, including Sophia and a foreign exchange student. So I return my three-headed monster next year. I’m very happy about that, but this is tough for those three seniors, including Soph. They’re going to be deeply missed.”
Lauren McGlothin Carleigh Miller