The Centennial and Howard girls soccer teams each had Class 3A state title aspirations when the season began. Now, only Centennial is playoff-bound.
The Eagles' 4-0 victory at Howard yesterday snuffed out Howard's hopes and climaxed one of the team's most frustrating seasons.
Vicky Brunt was unstoppable for Centennial (7-1, 3-1). The senior striker recorded her second hat trick in six days. She also assisted on Centennial's fourth goal.
Allison Bielski played an equally important role in Howard's demise.
After scoring two goals as striker Tuesday against Mount Hebron, Bielski switched to marking back yesterday and shut down Howard's top player, Camille Powell.
"Bielski assumes whatever role we need her to play, picks up our team and keeps it hustling," Centennial coach Rick Pizarro said. "She's a fine leader."
For Howard, 2-1 overtime loser to top-ranked Hammond on Tuesday, and loser of four 2-1 games this season, frustration was evident throughout the game.
Near the end of the first half, with Centennial ahead 3-0, Howard star striker Shannon Bagrosky yanked Centennial sweeper Paige Nettlebladt's ponytail, nearly pulling Nettlebladt to the ground. No penalty was called.
And midway through the second half, Howard stopper Sharon Ford kicked a ball almost over the top row of the visiting team's stands.
Ford had the exhausting task of marking two of the state's premier strikers on back-to-back days, Hammond's Kisha Jett on Tuesday and Brunt yesterday.
Injuries to three key players -- Powell, Bragrosky and Terri Townsley -- have cost Howard dearly this season.
"When healthy, we can play with anybody in the state, as we proved Tuesday against Hammond," Howard coach Dave Vezzi said. "But we needed to win today to make the playoffs."
Howard (3-6, 0-4) lost, 2-1, earlier this season in a non-league game to Centennial and almost always gives the Eagles a tough game. Not yesterday.
Brunt, who has scored nine goals and has eight assists, took a long pass from Michelle Clare 17 minutes into the game and booted it in from 25 yards away.
Brunt's second goal also came off a pass from Clare, scoring in the 30th minute from two feet out.
In the 32nd minute, Brunt headed in her last goal from three yards away off a volley from Kelly Butler. Shara Boonshaft's corner kick initiated the play.
Boonshaft scored the final goal in the 75th minute from 35 yards away off a short pass from Brunt.
"We thought Howard would want to prove something and put it to us after they lost to Hammond yesterday, because Hammond has already beaten us," Pizarro said. "But we passed well today, and our first two goals knocked it out of them."