SHELBYVILLE — Franklin Central’s Shelby Cleek was surprised that she got a pass from her teammate, Rylie Simmons, in the early minutes of the second half during their regional matchup against Greenfield-Central on Saturday.
But when she did, Cleek took advantage. Her long kick into the net — and over Greenfield-Central goalkeeper Kayla Enochs’ head — gave the Flashes a 1-0 lead at the 35-minute mark. It was a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, as the Flashes captured their first girls soccer regional championship in school history.
“I thought (Simmons) was going to take the goal, but she unselfishly gave it to me,” Cleek said. “I beat someone and I scored a goal, and I couldn’t have done it without my teammate’s pass and what my teammates have done this season. I’m really proud to be a captain of this team and lead this team to victory. I hope we go very far.”
Greenfield-Central finished the season with 10 wins and a sectional championship, which it won over Mt. Vernon last week. Coach Erin Clark said winning the sectionals was their goal before the season.
“All these games have been icing on the cake since then,” said Clark, who hopes the success will draw more girls into the program next year. “We’ve just been enjoying the ride. A lot of people didn’t expect us to get here. A lot of people didn’t think we were good enough. The girls, in the last part of the season, came on strong. They deserved to be here.”
Franklin Central coach Mia Moody said they knew that the Cougars would be a “fast, athletic, physical team.”
“They have some real good athletes up top,” Moody said. “For us, defensively, it was just making sure we were set, and making sure we were taking advantage of the opportunities we have.”
The Flashes, who finished 9-8-1 last year, are 12-4-2 heading into the semistate.
“It’s big,” Moody said of the regional victory. “We have a young team. The girls have been working since June. The players have taken ownership. It’s huge for us.”
Moody said her team’s commitment and buy-in has made a big difference on this year’s squad.
“We have girls that haven’t played a couple of games and they’re still going at it every day at practice, but mostly just the commitment,” Moody said.
The win comes just a few days after the Flashes beat Center Grove in double overtime. They will face Terre Haute North next Saturday in the semistate.
“It’s been a lot of hard work for us to get here,” Cleek said. “We couldn’t have done it if we didn’t put the work in every day. We’re out here thanking the Lord for everything he has given us.”