KNIGHTSTOWN — The Knightstown High School girls soccer team ended the 2021 season on an unfortunate note when it learned just a few hours before that, due to contact tracing under COVID-19 protocol, its starting goal keeper would not be available for Thursday evening’s semifinal game of Class A Sectional 44 against Union County at Don Willard Field.
Short a key member of their team, the tourney-host Panthers gave it a good go and actually led early in the contest, but the Patriots quickly pulled even and went on to 3-1 victory over Knightstown.
Union County won its first game of the season to improve to 1-15-1 for the season and moved on to today’s (Saturday’s) championship game at 7 p.m. against Muncie Burris, who tied Wapahani 2-2 in Thursday night’s second semifinal but won the game on PKs.
The Panthers closed the season with a 2-11-1 record.
“Learning three hours before game time that our goal keeper had to go into quarantine due to contact tracing despite showing no symptoms really put us in a tough spot,” Knightstown Head Coach Dusty Magee remarked afterward. “We had no time to practice with a replacement in goal and scrambled to move some girls around. It was a bad break in a season of tough breaks for us.”
Zoe Beabout, normally a midfielder, started in goal for Knightstown and recorded a save six minutes into the contest.
Both teams had some shot attempts over the next several minutes. The Patriots’ Brooklyn Vauthier missed at the 32:52 mark and the Panthers’ Yaylor Wirsch had a shot go wide shortly thereafter.
Union County’s Cecelia Groen just missed wide right at the 31:12 mark and Kyleigh Payne kicked the ball wide right a couple of minutes later.
A Knightstown player (hidden from view of this reporter) had an accurate shot that was snuffed out with a save by Patriot goal keeper Sophia Knock with 24:45 remaining in the first half, and the Panthers had a free kick at the 23:15 mark, but no good attempt at a goal came from it.
Vauthier banged the ball off the top of the crossbar and it flew over the goal with 22:44 left in the opening period.
Shortly after that, the ball was in Union County territory, Knightstown sophomore Julieccia Harvey took possession of it, dribbled the ball a little, and then booted it past Knock for a goal, giving the Panthers a 1-0 advantage with 22:01 left in the first half.
But that lead didn’t last long. The Patriots got the ball deep in Knightstown territory and Payne got knocked down near the outside edge of the box on the right side, and a free kick was awarded.
Vauthier took it, the ball hit the bottom of the crossbar, slipped out of the temporary grasp of Beabout, and fell into the goal, tying the game 1-1 with 21:29 remaining in the first half.
Nothing much of significance happened over the next 10 minutes or so, as the defenses dominated.
Over the next 10 minutes after that, Knock recorded a save on a Knightstown shot attempt at the 10:50 mark, Payne missed wide right again at 7:35, and Groen’s shot with 4:11 left before halftime was blocked by a Knightstown defender.
Finally, with 1:22 remaining before intermission, Vauthier got the ball in a scrum in front of the Panther goal, kicked it, the ball was blocked, but Vauthier got the ball on the rebound and kicked it into the lower left corner of the goal for a 2-1 Union County advantage.
The rest of the opening period was uneventful, and the two teams went into the 10-minute halftime break with the visitors from Liberty up a goal.
Despite scoring two goals in the first half, Vauthier replaced Knock in goal for the Patriots for the final 40 minutes.
Union County had the majority of scoring opportunities during the first 14 minutes of the second half. Payne kicked the ball wide left at 37:35 before the Panthers got a pair of corner kicks from Harvey at the 36:10 and 34:14 marks on which nothing materialized.
Beabout made a save on another Payne attempt at 33:50, a Union County shot went astray at the 33:21 mark, and the Patriots’ Michaela Tolford missed wide left at 29:54.
A shot by Knightstown senior Alize Podniestrzanski was blocked at the 28:22 mark, a Panther shot was saved by Vauthier at 27:03, and Beabout scooped up a Payne attempt at the 26:13 mark.
With 25:48 left in the game, a Union County player (perhaps Lilly Witter) knocked Knightstown sophomore Stella Leakey hard to the turf and was issued a yellow card.
Leakey lay on the ground for a couple minutes while being attended to, but eventually got up and returned to the contest.
Fired up, the Panthers dominated play offensively over the next few minutes. The tourney hosts got a couple Harvey corner kicks at the 23:50 and 21:51 marks, and Vautheir grabbed the ball off the latter.
Shortly thereafter, Knightstown freshman Kiersten Whitfield dribbled the ball deep into Patriot territory, shot it, but Vauthier made a save at the 21:12 mark.
Beabout made a save on another Payne attempt at the 20:11 mark before being replaced in goal by freshman Kaelynn Dotson with 18:49 remaining in the game so she could help on offense.
“It was a desperation move,” Magee said. “We needed Zoe on offense to try and score a goal and send the game to overtime.”
Beabout re-entered the game at the 17:50 mark. Groen missed a shot with 14:09 left, harvey almost scored with 12 minutes remaining, but the ball went just wide, and Tolford missed at 11:40.
With less than nine minutes left in the contest, the ball was kicked to the Panther end. Knock took possession of it, dribbled it some, and then booted the ball into the goal for a 3-1 Union County lead at the 8:07 mark.
That score was the back-breaker for Knightstown. Although the Panthers continued to play hard, most of the remaining shots taken in the game were by the Patriots as the clock ran out on the tourney hosts.
Knightstown girls soccer bids goodbye to seniors Saige Chandler and Podniestrzanski.
“We’ll have most of our girls back next year,” Magee added. “We’ll get in the weight room to get stronger and quicker and work on our passing to try and have a better record next season.”