The biggest sin a team can commit against a talented attacking soccer team is to play timid defensively.
Brown County was guilty of that sin on Tuesday in the Class 2A Northview Sectional against West Vigo’s girls soccer team – and the Vikings rarely miss a chance to punish teams when given the chance.
The Vikings scored on their first shot and had four goals on the board by the 23rd minute of the game as West Vigo defeated Brown County 5-0.
West Vigo’s talented front line of center forward Corynn DeGroote and wings Katelyn Fennell, Mary-Paige Mason and Emma Stevens have been difficult to contain all season. A halting Brown County defense gave them and other Vikings room to maneuver … and that’s manna from heaven for the Vikings.
“We usually don't see teams that are timid at the start. We know we need to take advantage of the space and score," DeGroote said.
West Vigo (12-3-1) was on the board in the 4th minute. None of the Eagles closed on DeGroote on a run up the middle. Her shot from eight yards out was deflected, but it went to Fennell on the right side of the penalty box. She lobbed over the top of the keeper from 10 yards out to put the Vikings on the board. It's a shot that's right in Fennell's wheelhouse.
"That's her shot. She's been doing that all year long. Almost every time she scores, it's from the outside and over-the-top into the corner. We practiced that yesterday. That's the shot we let her keep practicing and she keeps hitting it," West Vigo coach Alicia Lanham said.
Eight minutes later, the flood of goals came for the Vikings. Fennell created the second goal with a right-to-left cross to Mason, who hit a belter of her own. She found the top left corner of the net from 16 yards out to put West Vigo up 2-0.
Dispirited, Brown County let its guard down and that played right into West Vigo’s hands. A Brown County defender over-committed on a through ball to DeGroote and the West Vigo sophomore had a clear path to the goal. She didn’t waste it, beating the keeper from just under 10 yards to make it 3-0.
DeGroote played a role in the final West Vigo goal of the first half. She made a run and took a shot from a tight angle on the right side. It didn’t find the mark, but the loose ball was waiting by the left post for Rylee Bull to deflect home from near-point-blank range. Bull had just entered the game as a substitute.
"We definitely do better when we score first. Our momentum builds up a lot from that," said Fennell on the West Vigo's early surge.
West Vigo enjoyed a 4-0 halftime lead, but it wasn’t just the scoring prowess that showed. West Vigo’s defensive line of Molly Rohrbach, Kaitlyn Ray, Katelynn Rollings, Elizabeth Vinardi and Gabrielle Buckallew play a high line, but never allowed the Eagles’ forwards to get comfortable. Brown County had five first half shots, but only one was threatening, a breakaway by Marley Nickels that West Vigo keeper Avery Funk parried away.
"I'm pretty confident in our defense because we have each other's back. If I miss a ball? I know someone else will be back to get it," Buckallew said.
Brown County had more opportunities in the second half, but on at least three breakaways, Funk stoned the Eagles and maintained her clean sheet. DeGroote added a second goal late in the contest via a breakaway.
The Vikings next play Owen Valley at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Northview plays Edgewood in the 5 p.m. opener.
West Vigo edged Owen Valley 3-2 in the regular season, but played without Vinardi in that match.
"I think the key is for us to possess the ball and work on our passing and our crossing," Lanham said. "Having Vinardi back should help us a lot."
West Vigo goals — Katelyn Fennell (37:39 1H), Mary-Paige Mason (28:00 1H), Corynn DeGroote (25:39 1H), Rylee Bull (DeGroote, 17:19 1H), DeGroote (9:41 2H).
West Vigo saves — Avery Funk 12.
Shots — Brown County 12, West Vigo 18.
Corners — Brown County 1, West Vigo 6.
Next — West Vigo (12-3-1) plays Owen Valley at 7 p.m. Thursday in a Class 2A Northview Sectional semifinal. Northview and Edgewood play at 5 p.m. Thursday.