Seymour girls soccer takes league crown


When the ball flew off Lillie Wessel’s foot, she knew.

She gets these vibes that are usually right and her high, arching kick that soared into the Columbus East net was on target.

“I saw the opening,” Wessel said of the Seymour goal in a 1-0 victory that gave the Owls the Hoosier Hills Conference regular-season championship Thursday night at their home stadium known as “The Nest.” “I could feel it was going in.”

The score at the 16:03 mark of the second half was the difference in the taut, defensive game that gave Seymour its first league championship since 1997 and improved the team’s record to 11-2-1.

“I’ve never experienced this type of emotion after a win,” said senior captain Alyssa Perry, who assisted on the goal.

The players’ win over the Olympians was celebrated as if they had won the Olympics. When the game clock ran out, the Owls threw arms in the air, shouted and partied like it was 1997 all over again.

“That was a heck of a game,” said Seymour coach Greg Musser.

Musser felt Columbus East put ample pressure on his keeper Jessica Hougland, who narrowly lost out on the first-string goalie job at the start of the season to Ellen Zabor. But Zabor was on crutches for this match, and Hougland got the call.

Hougland was under heat as the visitors maintained a slight territorial advantage, but she set a tone, too, with an early sprawling save. When the Owls turned the offensive supremacy around in the second half, Hougland made the big plays when needed.

The closing minutes were frantic as the Olympians moved the ball well, passed efficiently and several times came dangerously close spots to fire on Hougland.

“She was very aggressive,” Musser said of Hougland’s play.

So were the rest of the Owls. Kylee Nowling seemed to constantly be in the mix clearing the ball, and once that 1-0 lead was established, the remaining fielders provided ample protection up front, often booming clearing boots far downfield.

“That probably was the best second half we’ve played all year,” Musser said.

This was a game that meant something to Seymour. Wessel said all day at school when the players crossed paths in hallways, they communicated that feeling of importance. She said she became more nervous as the day wore on.

“We wanted to do this this season,” Wessel said. “We were ready.”

As a reminder of the significance of the moment, during pregame preparations, the team watched a few-minute video in the locker room that was a motivational speech.

Did it work?

“It did,” Wessel said.

The home fans provided a sustained cheer for the last 90 seconds of the game, and when time ran, out a public address announcement was made, delivering the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, your Owls are conference champs.”

Musser, who has the habit of coaching barefoot, did so again Thursday night despite the temperature dipping low enough that fans in the stands wrapped themselves in blankets. He suffered for his art, too, noting his feet not only felt frozen, but one toe was oozing a little blood because a player jumped up and down in happiness over the victory and landed on it.

Not that Musser cared for the time being, describing his feeling when the win was banked rather succinctly.

“Oh, it was pure joy,” he said.

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