By Will Willems
There was no letdown for the Zionsville girls soccer team Thursday night after beating top-ranked ranked Carmel in the sectional opener on Tuesday.
The Eagles played another strong game and dispatched No. 7 Guerin Catholic 2-1 to advance to the sectional final against Westfield on Saturday.
"Every game we play in this sectional is going to be so tough," Zionsville head coach Ramon Aguillon said. "Guerin is an excellent team and they play until the last second of the game. We knew that we had to play 80 full minutes to win this game and that is exactly what the girls did tonight. I am extremely proud of them."
It was some retribution for Zionsville, which lost to Guerin 2-0 in the regular season.
"We knew they were going to be very physical," Aguillon said. "They are strong off the ball and very composed. We wanted to make sure we utilized the bigger field. This field is way bigger than the field we played on at their place. Our girls physically were just up to the task. We got beat up pretty good when we played up there and we were ready this time."
The two teams were deadlock for the first 30 minutes of the game, with most of the play going back-and-forth in the center of the pitch.
That all changed with a key five minute spurt by the Eagles in which they scored two goals to take a 2-0 lead into the half.
"That offensive spurt was huge," Aguillon said. "There was 10 minutes left in the half and it is huge difference in going up 2-0 into the half. That really gave the girls a lift heading into the second half."
The first goal came with 9:45 left in the half.
Katherine Ratz got the ball on the right side of the field and crossed it into the box. A Guerin defender tried to clear it away, but it didn't get all the way out and found the foot of Rachael Bellefuil.
The Eagle sophomore placed a left-footed shot perfectly far post for the 1-0 lead.
"She was in the right place in the right time," Aguillon said. "It was a great finish. She has been playing great for us all season. That is what it is going to take, we need to have all the girls step up and have big games in tough games like this."
A little more than four minutes later, Ashlyn McElderry drew a foul about 25 yards from goal.
Pooh Lewis stepped up and blasted a low shot into the goal for a 2-0 lead.
Aguillon said Katy Keen normally takes the free kicks in the scoring areas, but they liked the way Lewis had been taking them in practice.
"We practiced it yesterday and Pooh was taking them from there and was hitting them really well," Aguillon said. "So we told her that if we were close in that range, where maybe Katy's shot would go over the goal more, to take it because she could keep it lower. That is exactly what she did."
The Eagles defense held strong for most of the second half, preventing Guerin from getting back in the game.
Guerin managed to score with 2:45 remaining in the game, however, and made the last 165 seconds a little nerve-racking for the Zionsville faithful.
But the Eagles had no problems closing out the final minutes.
"We talked at halftime about how they were going to come out strong in the second half," Aguillon said. " We knew those first 15 minutes were going to be key. We made sure the girls knew to pay even more attention defensively. We held them for most of the half, then they score with like three minutes left then the clock couldn't run fast enough. To me every second seemed like an hour. But our girls never stopped, they believed in themselves and played an excellent game. That is two tough ones in a row and now we have to get ready for Westfield and that is not going to be easy."
Unlike their last two opponents, Westfield is not ranked in the state polls.
But Aguillon said the girls remember the regular season meeting with the Shamrocks that went down to the wire.
"I think it helps that we only beat them 1-0 and it was really a last-minute goal," Aguillon said. "The girls know it is going to be tough. We are beat up physically. We have to make sure in the next 48 hours the girls get some rest and get ready for the game."
Aguillon said it also helps that they had to get over an emotional win Tuesday to regroup for Guerin.
Now after another big win, he doesn't expect the regrouping to be too difficult.
"That Carmel win, it felt like it was the state championship game and then tonight it was the same caliber," Aguillon said. "I don't know if you can get a better atmosphere than we had tonight. It was like another state championship game and our girls rose to the challenge. Now we can celebrate tonight, but we have to get ready for a very good Westfield team on Saturday.
Kick-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Carmel on Saturday.