BURLINGTON — Emily Murphy had one request moments after walking off a soccer field in Burlington for likely the final time on Wednesday.
Murphy, who scored 74 goals and had 45 assists in four years at Burlington High School and has racked up 43 more goals at Indian Hills Community College women’s soccer team, failed to find the back of the net on Wednesday against Southeastern. SCC players took their turns knocking Murphy to the Burlington Regional RecPlex turf rather than let the region’s top goal scorer get a clean scoring look.
It was Murphy and her Warrior teammates that would have the last laugh. Goals by Kiri Chiba and Miranda Kurtt proved to be enough for IHCC to secure a 2-0 victory as Elani Mears, making her own return to Burlington, secured a second straight shutout in goal making six saves, five in the second half.
“It was nice to have all my family and friends here watching me. It was a little extra pressure, but it’s nice to be back home,” said Mears, a graduate of Burlington Notre Dame. “I’ve done a lot of training out here throughout my life.”
With the Nikes, Mears started in goal all four years of high school helping lead the Nikes to consecutive state tournament appearances as a junior and a senior. Mears made 324 saves, allowing just 61 goals, over those four years with 92 stops and only five goals allowed this past spring for Notre Dame including a five-save shutout against Marion last spring in the 2A regional finals that was contested inside “The Turf” indoor facility located a few feet away from the RecPlex.
Mears made five more saves in goal during the second half against the Blackhawks, protecting a 2-0 lead for the second straight match. On Sunday, Mears made a pair of first-half goals by Kurtt and Murphy stand up in a win at home over Otero Junior College, allowing the Warrior to win the Wells Fargo Cup for a third consecutive season.
“When it’s 2-0, you just have to treat it like it’s 0-0,” Mears said. “I think you have to work even harder protecting a lead like that. You can’t hold back. You have to push yourself no matter what.”
Just like Sunday’s match, Mears also had to stop the first shot for either team as Southeastern (2-2) could not convert on an opportunity in the opening 10 minutes. It would be the only scoring chance for the Blackhawks in the first half as IHCC countered with an 18-yard strike by Chiba that bent past Southeastern goalkeeper Rafaela Mega into the net in the 17th minute.
“Right now, we’re very good at getting a lead,” Indian Hills coach Anthony Longo said. “Our problem is playing with a lead. I don’t want to say we panicked, but there were a lot of breakdowns. When we should be keeping the ball, we’re rushing too far ahead. When we have time to play on the break, we’re a little too slow. It’s just a lot of little things that you expect from a young team with a lot of girls that are still getting used to playing at this level.”
Chiba helped set up IHCC’s second goal on Wednesday with a corner kick that was deflected right into a header that Kurtt directed into the goal in the 36th minute. Murphy tried her best to get one more goal in Burlington during the second half, missing on three shots including a ball that required a save even after Murphy was taken down in the box prior to getting the shot off.
“I expect contact in every game. Getting that type of contact is nothing new,” Murphy said. “We got the win. That’s all that matters. It’s very frustrating. I want to do whatever I can to help my team win. If I can’t get calls like that, it’s annoying. Once the play is over and there’s no call, there’s nothing I can do about it. The best thing to do is just move on to the next play.”
Indian Hills (5-0) hosts Heartland Community College on Saturday at 1 p.m.