TERRE HAUTE —
Members of the crowd — substantial again, although maybe not quite the 1,900 that saw the first meeting between the two teams — had barely settled into their seats Saturday night when they saw the only goal of the high school girls soccer sectional championship match at Terre Haute South.
Fans weren’t cheated, however. There was still plenty of action the rest of the way — most of it in the Regional Hospital end of the field — as Terre Haute North avenged its regular-season loss with a 1-0 victory over the host Braves.
There were a couple of contrasts between the two contests, played a little more than three weeks apart. South pressured the goal, particularly in the first period, more than it had in the first match, despite scoring three fewer goals, and North was the second-half team this time, even though its only goal came much earlier.
There was one similarity, though, that coach Kyle Baker of North found uncomfortable.
“I thought the first half [Saturday] was just about a carbon copy [of the earlier meeting],” he said. “We got the early goal, and then [the Braves] starting winning the 50-50 balls again.”
North had the ball first, and pressured immediately. Nicole Mikolajczyk got a shot off in the first minute, and before the Braves could clear the ball completely out of their end Mikolajczyk found it again.
Her second opportunity — set up by a loose ball — was in the middle of the field, with one defender to beat, and she did, dribbling to the goal and firing a point-blank blast past Kelli Buchanan just 68 seconds into the match.
“It was just a 1-V-1,” Mikolajczyk explained after the match. “I knew I had to make it.”
“We had one little flaw at the beginning, and [the Patriots] capitalized,” noted South coach Dave Drake. “Just a rough touch and a little mistake.”
Then the match changed, and Buchanan had some time to relax. The Braves took play to the Patriots for most of the rest of the period and had more shots and corners — although no shots on goal, Patriot backliners Jordan Bray, Kelsey Thomas and Joy Jakaitis supporting goalkeeper Jaime McKee.
“I thought we did a really good job,” Drake said later. “We controlled more of [the match] than I thought we would.”
“We didn’t get as many shots as we would have liked,” Mikolajczyk said. “I’m glad we were able to capitalize on one.”
“We were able to avoid [the Braves] getting one in [the goal],” Baker said, “and at halftime we were able to calm down.”
That calm, after the teams changed ends of the field, resulted in the Patriots pressuring the goal most of the second period. North had an amazing 10 corner kicks in the last 40 minutes, none of them making ESPN — like South’s Makenzie Mauriello’s game-winner Sept. 13 did — but keeping the Braves on the defensive. Buchanan was brilliant in one of the sequences, including a diving save of a rocket from the doorstep that threatened to take her head off.
“We played a lot better in the second half. We just didn’t finish,” Baker summarized.
Baker noted an injury to North freshman Megan Mauriello that hurt the Braves’ chances — “South is beat up; [that injury] hurt them depth-wise,” he noted — and Drake was effusive in praise of his team.
“We had a great, great year [including a fourth-place conference finish],” Drake said. “Great season, great captains … I wouldn’t trade any team for these kids.
“[The Patriots] played well, and they deserved the win. They got the goal.”
“[Winning the sectional] feels amazing,” said Mikolajczyk. “It’s my senior year, and we’re going to make the season last as long as we can.”
Terre Haute South 0 0 — 0
Terre Haute North 1 0 — 1
THN — Nicole Mikolajczyk, 38:52
Shots — South 12, North 15.
Shots on goal — South 1, North 5.
Corner kicks — South 4, North 10.
Next — Terre Haute North (11-5) plays Castle at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Jasper Regional. Terre Haute South finished 11-5-1.