Fishers Tigers sophomore Maddie Essick couldn’t think straight during the day at school. She was too anxious about the Tigers’ Class 2A sectional semifinal against Hamilton Southeastern.
Essick got her nerves out when she and No. 7 Fishers (12-3-2) stepped on the field against rival No. 5 Hamilton Southeastern (11-4-3). After 80-plus minutes of scoreless action, Essick felt her chance to make an impact. She unleashed a shot from the top of the box that found the back of the net and sent the Tigers on to the sectional final with a 1-0 win Thursday.
“Brady (Riley) was wide open, so I thought about passing it to her and making a run,” Essick said. “Then I saw an open shot and just decided I had to take it.”
Essick launched a low line drive from the right side and sent it across the box. The ball raced past the outstretched arms of Royals goalkeeper Natalie Wilkinson into the right corner of the net. It was only the ninth goal given up by Wilkinson this season.
“When she got the shot it was behind a line of girls and our goalie was blinded and didn’t have a clear vision for that,” said Hamilton Southeastern coach Greg Davidson. “We’ve got to step up, challenge them and not even give them that shot in the first place.”
Essick was swarmed by her teammates after her fifth – and arguably biggest – goal of the season. That ecstasy was far from what Essick had felt when she woke up.
“I was pretty nervous all day during school. I was pretty anxious about the game,” Essick said. “At school all I was thinking about was the game.”
At least she didn’t have any tests during the day to worry about. The Tigers and Royals, though, were tested in a physical contest. The game was played mostly in the midfield with chances few and far between. The Royals had five shots on goals. The Tigers had only three. But they had the one that counted the most.
Fishers coach Ben Beasley didn’t see the winning shot as he was getting subs ready to send in. Essick was with the team as a freshman during last season’s state title run and stepped up when she was needed most Thursday, prompting Beasley to say: “She’s going to be special.”
The rival Royals and Tigers had played to a 0-0 draw when they met Sept. 9 in Hoosier Crossroads Conference action at Fishers. The rematch took place at Hamilton Southeastern, but that didn’t faze the Tigers, who emerged victorious on the road.
“We just had to get all of our nerves out, and there was a lot of pressure on us,” Essick said. “We stuck it out and won.”
Fishers will play the winner of Pendleton Heights and Noblesville in the sectional final at 6 p.m. Saturday at Hamilton Southeastern.