By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Rather than wait for the nagging showers to pass softly into the damp night, New Albany danced in the rain drops. Bedford North Lawrence, for all its effort, just got soggy.
The Bulldogs, after getting washed away by their last three regular-season opponents, advanced to the Class 3A sectional championship with a 3-0 victory over the Stars on Thursday night. New Albany will battle rival Floyd Central, a 4-0 victor over Jennings County in the first semifinal, in the finale on Saturday.
The Stars couldn’t break through the New Albany flood wall. The Bulldogs (7-10) had given up 21 goals during their recent three-game losing streak, but they clamped down on BNL’s long-ball attack to record their second shutout of the season.
“We’ve had some rough outings the last couple of games,” New Albany coach Rachel Wells said. “So turning it on and finishing a game was really good. With the wet conditions, everything evens out. It’s the postseason and nothing else matters.”
BNL has hoping to reverse a 4-1 loss to New Albany during the regular-season meeting on Aug. 26. But the Bulldogs scored two second-half goals to pull away.
“I would have liked to score on them again,” BNL coach Bret Roberts said, “because I know we can.”
New Albany took command midway through the first half when Ella Higbie converted a free kick from 20 yards, zipping a shot from the left wing to the near post at 22:41. In the second half, Claire Duggins found the net off a loose ball in the box, then Marin Higbie capped the scoring with a goal off a corner kick at 16:34.
Now the Bulldogs will face the Highlanders, the defending sectional champions. Floyd won the regular-season clash 3-0 on Sept. 14.
BNL concluded the season with a 6-9-1 record, a vast improvement from the struggles of the last two years, and loses only two seniors (four-year veteran Sydney Hallatt and one-year wonder Britta Warren).
“I know they’re upset about the result of this game, but in my eyes the whole season was a win, no matter what the scoreboard said,” Roberts said. “After the last two years, it was iffy, what was going to happen this season. I didn’t know the future of the program. Because of them, they paved the way for future teams and future players to have a strong program.
“The word has gotten out that we have a strong team again, and people want to play when we’re winning games. That’s reality. Everybody has made a huge impact.”