As long as Shelby Mann had played soccer, she was her team’s right outside midfielder, and she was initially hesitant to play anywhere else when she had a preseason meeting with West Lafayette coach Aaron Blessing.
With dynamic goal scorer Katie Bittner now playing for Purdue, the Red Devils needed another athletic forward who could put the ball in the back of the net, and Mann fit the bill.
“We had this big talk about accepting our roles. In order to have our team do its best, I had to play forward,” Mann said.
The result was Mann becoming the most lethal scorer in the area. Through 11 matches, Mann has scored 21 goals. She hopes to add to that total in this weekend’s Hoosier Conference tournament, when the Class A No. 9 West Lafayette tries to continue its dominance of the Hoosier Conference tournament, now in its third year.
On the opposite side of the bracket is Class A’s 12th-ranked team, Central Catholic, a program knowing that in order to show it has taken the next step, it has to beat the team that has dominated the league and the sectional.
“That is the game of the season,” said CC junior Lauren Pannell, who leads the team with nine assists. “We go into the season thinking about it. It kind of culminates our season. We go in and put our all into that one.”
The Knights and Red Devils met in the sectional semifinal a year ago, with WL coming away with a 2-0 victory. Maya Alexander broke a scoreless battle with a goal early in the second half and Erin Brophy put the match out of reach with a score in the final three minutes.
If there is a rematch, both teams anticipate an equally compelling match.
“We’ve been working really hard throughout the season, approaching each game as though we want to finish this one before the next,” Brophy said. “If we do happen to meet them, it will be a good matchup.”