Rivet has had the most successful girls soccer program in the area since it's inaugural season in 2016, so it's not surprising that the Patriots have the best chance of continuing that success this week as the 26th annual IHSAA girls soccer state tournament gets started today.
The county schools play in the opening round in the Class A Sullivan Sectional today, with North Knox (0-13) facing Washington Catholic at 5 p.m., and South Knox (7-10) to follow against the host Golden Arrows at 7 p.m. The city schools received byes and don't play until Thursday, as the 11th-ranked Patriots (10-6-1) take on Bloomfield at 7 p.m. in the Sullivan Sectional, and Lincoln (7-7) faces Washington in the Class 2A Jasper Sectional at 5 p.m.
The championship game at both sites is at 7 p.m. Saturday.
With six losses, Rivet has equalled its most defeats in the program's recent history, but with an appearance in the Hoosier Cup and four road trips to much bigger schools, the Patriots play the toughest schedule in the area, and they've managed to be ranked in the top-15 all season. In fact, all of Rivet's losses have come against 2A or 3A schools, including ranked foes South Dearborn, Bloomington South and Northview.
Rivet's success can largely be contributed to its quartet of seniors, Abby Niehaus, Tia Tolbert, Kennedy Johnson and Caroline Herman. Tolbert leads the way with 20 goals and 11 assists, but Niehaus isn't far behind with 19 and eight. Johnson has 13 goals and eight assists, and Herman eight goals, nine assists.
“We've been able to compete and win against all of the opponents in this sectional, so we hope to continue to do the same,” Rivet coach John Anderson said. “South Knox and Sullivan have the second game (today), and those are the two teams that gave us the most difficulty (3-0 and 3-1 wins). Either one could potentially be an issue if we get to Saturday, but first we have to take care of Bloomfield, and we feel comfortable and confident that we can go in and compete with all of them.
“Those four seniors have kind of set the tone for us. They're usually our leading scorers, and I can call on each one of them to step up on a given night. When they're all four going together, we're a tough team to beat, and it's difficult for opponents to defend against us. They provide everything, leadership, scoring, assists, and they can even drop back on defense if needed.”
The seniors aren't normally needed on defense however, with junior Maggie Earley in charge of the back at sweeper. Junior Kathryn Herman, sophomore Katie Daugherty and freshman Morgan Alderton are the defenders in front of Earley, and freshman Jayda Millspaugh is the last line of defense at keeper.
“If anything gets past that line of three, Maggie is there to stop it,” Anderson said. “She's a skilled, smart, intelligent player, and we're confident she's going to take care of a lot back there. Jayda's just a freshman, but she has five or six shutouts, and that's pretty good.
“We hope we have a lot of people make the short trip to watch us, and hopefully we can be playing Saturday night.”
The Warriors are the first in the area to take the field, and they're also the last county school other than Rivet to win a sectional, coming in 2013. They have a tall task in seeking their first win of the season against a Cardinals team that blasted them 10-0 last Saturday.
North Knox has managed just one goal on the year, by sophomore Emma Stanczak, and coach Kelsey Houchin said freshman Emma Elkins is a threat to score as well. Junior keeper Riley Petro has been a steady presence, but she's also been tested often, notching around 13 saves per match. It's a young squad with freshmen and sophomores making up about 75 percent of the roster.
“I feel we can be competitive. I always say everyone's record is 0-0 (in the postseason), so it's anyone's game. If we just play patient and aggressive, then we can compete. The girls are hungry for a win, so I hope it can carry us through the first round,” Houchin said. “Riley has been a huge asset for us. She not only saves us from getting beat by double digits, she's also a leader. I can count on her to get the team focused. Stanczak knows how to maneuver the ball through players, and (Elkins) knows the game well and is aggressive.”
The Spartans nipped Sullivan, 2-1, a month ago, but that match was at South Knox's field, so a change of venue may help the Golden Arrows. The Spartans also possess one-goal wins over North Knox and Washington Catholic, giving them a 4-1 mark against the field.
Sophomore Jordyn Derouin leads South Knox with six goals and four assists, while classmate Sydney Riker has four goals, and senior Kennedy Bilskie and freshman McKenzie Johnson have three. Eight others have found the net for South Knox. Junior Ellie Fausnaugh is the primary keeper, and seniors Grayson Keller, Marlie Lindauer and Kaitlin Bilskie lead the defense.
Every team in Lincoln's sectional is hovering around the .500 mark, but regular-season results make the Alices a decided underdog. The Hatchets own a 5-2 win over Lincoln, and Jasper and Princeton also claimed victories. The Alices didn't play Pike Central.
Sophomore Sierra Mullins has been Lincoln's primary offense with 23 goals and six assists. Junior Alexus Arvin is next with four goals, and senior Mia Cory has three goals and three assists. Cory joines classmates Karlie Myers and Victoria Jackson as keys in the midfield, junior Ashlyn Hillenbrand is the top defender, and freshman Madalynn Grube is the keeper.
"We had some good momentum built up, but we lost ground last week," Lincoln coach Kellie Cargal said. "I'm hoping we come out ready to play mentally and physically, but we had some injuries last week and this week, so our bench isn't too deep. In our regular season game against Washington we had some bright moments, so I think this game is winnable if we come out ready from the kickoff.
"We're going back to watch some pieces of that game to look at what adjustments we need to make, but our ability to win comes down to our mental toughness most of the time."
CLASS A - SULLIVAN
5 — Washington Catholic (4-8-1) vs. North Knox (0-13)
7 — Sullivan (6-9-1) vs. South Knox (7-10)
5 — Today's winners
7 — Rivet (10-6-1) vs. Bloomfield (1-8)
7 — Championship
CLASS 2A - JASPER
7 — Pike Central (9-6-2) vs. Princeton (5-8-3)
5 — Lincoln (7-7) vs. Washington (7-10)
7 — Jasper (8-7-3) vs. Today's winner
7 — Championship