In their sectional quarterfinal matchup against the Maconaquah Braves on Tuesday night, the Mississinewa Indians experienced both high and lows.
They scored the first two goals of the contest in the opening 20 minutes of the first half, only to see that lead evaporate.
But the Indians did not become discouraged nor did they panic. Rather, they continued to play their game, and a strong second half, combined with tremendous efforts from Alayna Webb, Taylor Ulerick, and Savannah Herrera, helped Mississinewa advance to the sectional semifinal with a 4-3 triumph.
“We had been harping in practice to talk to each other, pass to each other, and make some runs. Tonight, we did that,” Mississinewa Head Coach Andrea Wilson said. “We wanted it. We wanted it bad. We wanted to be here on Thursday.”
With Lia Luchetti sidelined with a concussion, Ulerick took her spot on the front line – and did not disappoint.
Just 3:34 into the match, Ulerick, using her speed to her advantage, dribbled through and around the Maconaquah defense, blasting it past Braves’ goalkeeper Lilly Scheffler for a 1-0 lead.
Armed with the early advantage, the Indians continued to maintain most of the possession, consistently pressuring the Braves’ back line.
Webb increased Mississinewa’s advantage to 2-0 with 21:57 remaining in the opening period. Much like Ulerick earlier in the match, she weaved her way around the defense and found a seam.
After that, the Braves began to make their push, and senior forward Jolee Holland found her scoring touch.
Holland cut Mississinewa’s lead to one with 11:47 on the clock, breaking through the Mississinewa defense on a breakaway. Just over nine minutes later, another Holland breakaway led to the Braves’ second goal, tying the game up at 2-2 heading into halftime.
Despite giving a two-goal lead, however, the Indians never lost confidence in themselves. They made the necessary adjustments at halftime, and proceeded to regain control of the contest.
“We were kind of at a high, and then we dipped down a little. We got a little tired,” Wilson said. “But second half, I knew at halftime they were ready. They wanted it.”
Mississinewa had possession of the ball for most of the second half, and their relentless attack finally paid off with 20:09 remaining, as Ulerick scored her second of the evening to give Mississinewa the lead back for good.
“My word for her is reckless,” Wilson said of Ulerick. “She has no fear whatsoever. It doesn’t matter if it’s going to hurt, she is going to run through it. You can’t teach that. Kids either have or they don’t, and she’s got it. She’s got that fight. She wants the ball.”
Less than five minutes later, Webb scored her second goal of the evening off a corner kick, giving Mississinewa a two-goal cushion once again.
Maconaquah did not go away quietly. Holland completed the hat trick with 4:56 remaining in the game, and had another breakaway in the final two minutes, but Herrera made the biggest stop of the evening with the game on the line, securing the victory.
Mississinewa outshot the Braves 22-15 in the game, which included a 14-11 advantage in shots on net. In the second half alone, Maconaquah racked up 10 shots, and Herrera stood tall, making five saves. In all, Herrera made six stops, while Scheffler recorded nine.