Indiana State played Illinois State, unbeaten in Missouri Valley Conference matches, to a 2-1 defeat at Memorial Stadium just over than a month ago.
And on Sunday, the Redbirds and MVC Freshman of the Year Hannah Leinert weren’t going to let the red-hot Sycamores — winners of seven straight matches —hang around in the championship of the MVC Tournament.
Leinert recorded the first hat trick in the history of the title game, carrying the Redbirds to a 5-0 victory and a second straight tournament title. Indiana State lost 5-1 to Illinois State in the 2012 championship.
Leinert found the back of the net once in the first half, but the Redbirds led just 1-0 at halftime. MVC Player of the Year Rachel Tejada fired a shot at Indiana State goalkeeper Brittany San Roman. The shot deflected off San Roman, and Leinert booted it in.
Indiana State had four shots on goal to Illinois State’s three after a strong start.
But Illinois State was quicker to the ball late in the first and carried some momentum into the second period.
“The first half, we had them; we still had another 45 minutes, we felt like we could come back and show them what we were here to do. We were here to win a championship, but I guess it just didn’t go our way,” ISU senior Taylor Reed said. “[The Redbirds] came out with some great energy in that second half.”
Leinert’s play was electric around the box.
In the fourth minute of the second period, the tourney MVP converted on a pass from Tejada to make it 2-0. Four minutes later, Leinert found open space in the middle of the field just outside the box. She beat a charging San Roman and knocked in a left-footed kick to make it 3-0.
A flurry of shots continued against the Sycamores’ goalkeeper, and Tejada set up Ali Farkos, who drilled a shot from 24 yards out.
Kyla Cross added the fifth goal in the 67th minute of action, and Indiana State managed its first shot on goal of the second half in the 82nd minute.
“They’re such a dangerous attacking team,” ISU coach Erika True said. “We knew that was something we would have to deal with today. I think you could ask any player on our team, and I don’t think any of them would say they played the best game of their life today. It wasn’t our day.”
The Sycamores finished with the first winning season in school history, and freshman Abby Reed scored a school-record 10 goals.
Reed, younger sister of Taylor, put two shots on target Sunday but came up empty.
“After today, it’s just going up from here. We expect to be here next year and take that next step,” said Abby Reed, an all-tournament team performer. “The season was great; we couldn’t have asked for a better team to make history with. It was our first time having a winning season and ranking second in the conference, it was just great.”
Taylor Reed will be one of four seniors who hope to see the Sycamores build off the growing tradition.
“It was the best season I’ve ever had. I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls to play with. Abby was the best person to push me to my potential,” Taylor Reed said.
True is certainly optimistic about the future.
“Our four seniors — Taylor Hancock, Shelby Troyer, Taylor Reed and Ali Ardaiolo — had a great season. I just thanked them at the end of the year for paving the way, but we have a lot returning,” True said. “It was Taylor Hancock after the game saying the future is bright, and it’s not good enough just to be here.
“We created history with our program. … They’re paving the way for the future. Now, it’s realistic goal is to be back here every year,” True said.
Indiana State 0 0 — 0
Illinois State 1 4 — 5
ILS — Hannah Leinert (Rachel Tejada), 25:59
ILS — Leinert (Tejada), 49:37
ILS — Leinert (Anna Stinson), 53:23
ILS — Ali Farkos (Tejada), 65:54
ILS — Kyla Cross (Rhianna Krutz), 67:49
Shots on goal — Illinois State 11, Indiana State 6.
Shots — Illinois State 28, Indiana State 11.
Saves — Newsom (ILS) 6; San Roman (ISU) 4.
Next — Illinois State (14-6) advances to the NCAA Tournament. Indiana State finished its season with a 10-9 record