Goal Celebration Franklin

The Eagles celebrate after Alec McCarty’s goal in the final minutes on Tuesday evening.

There will be times this season where the Zionsville boys soccer team’s free-flowing attack is slowed down by an opponent.

One such instance occurred Tuesday night in the Eagles’ HCC match-up with Franklin Central. But one of the things that makes the top-ranked Eagles so tough is that even when they aren’t clicking on all cylinders, they find ways to win.

They waited until the final minutes Tuesday, but Alec McCarty’s goal with 3:23 left was the difference in a 1-0 win that moved Zionsville to 8-0 and 3-0 in the HCC.

“We were a little lethargic tonight,” Zionsville head coach Rob Jordan said. “We were coming in at the end of a long string of games and faced a team that played really hard tonight and wanted to win. The bottom line is that we got one in when it mattered and got another conference win. This is a tough conference and you take any win, no matter how you get them.”

The game ended a stretch of six games in eight days for the Eagles, including five in the last six.

Jordan said that admittedly it wasn’t the best effort over 80 minutes that the team has had, but the important thing to stress was the mental toughness it took to grind out a result.

“At halftime, we could see that our energy levels and normal game weren’t there,” Jordan said. “We knew that we just needed one guy to step up and make a play. That’s what we were hoping for an we got it.”

Once again, a set piece led to the Eagles goal.

After several near misses on set pieces throughout the game, the Eagles finally broke through with one.

A long throw-in got the ball into the mix, and while the initial shot was saved by the Flashes goalkeeper, McCarty was there for the rebound.

“Their keeper made some really nice saves, there was one off Ben Weidner’s head that was really good,” Jordan said. “But one of the things we work on a lot is set pieces, and we had some chances early and just couldn’t get that final touch. But we stuck with it and got the goal we needed.”

It was the seventh shutout in eight games for the Eagles’ defense, which has only allowed a goal on a penalty kick this fall.

While that was a question mark spot coming into the season, the Eagles have gone to a back three with Cam Greeson, Charlie Wagner and Nick Pease, along with goalkeeper Gavin Raff and it has worked out well.

“It has just been a matter of that back line gelling, and they have done a good job of that,” Jordan said. “The outside mids understand what their jobs are too in tracking back to help. But overall, it has given us a lot more options in the midfield, especially in the attacking third and what we can do.”

The Eagles now have a week off in between games, before they host No. 12 Noblesville.

Jordan said the Eagles have to utilize the practice time to get ready for the stretch run, where they will face five ranked teams in their final seven games.

“It was a long stretch, but a fun stretch,” Jordan said. “We played a lot of guys at Hoosier Cup, and got a lot of rest, but it was a lot of games. We have to use the time to clean up some things from this first half of the year.”

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Zionsville Times Sentinel and Lebanon Reporter. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.

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