Switzerland County’s Kayley Jones (9) and Sierra Mills (7) share a hug as they walk off the field after the Pacers’ sectional loss on Thursday. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
Switzerland County’s Kayley Jones (9) and Sierra Mills (7) share a hug as they walk off the field after the Pacers’ sectional loss on Thursday. (Staff photo by David Campbell)
RISING SUN — Switzerland County was at a disadvantage from the moment it stepped off the bus, but that didn't stop the Pacers from putting together the best effort it could in their sectional opener on Thursday.

Forced to face off against the 12th-ranked team in the state with just nine players, Switzerland County battled as hard as it could before falling 5-0 to Oldenburg in the Class A Girls Soccer Sectional semifinals at Rising Sun.

Exposure to a COVID-positive student last week forced the school to cancel its homecoming festivities last week and all three of its scheduled volleyball games this week, but it was the girls soccer team that took the hardest hit.

With four starters forced to miss the biggest game of the season, Switzerland knew that a victory over the Twisters was a long shot at best, but they Pacers went out and battled anyway.

"They fought hard and they did everything I asked of them," Switzerland County coach Courtney Dayadharum said. "I asked them to give me 80 minutes of heart and they did."

With just eight position players to go along with goalie Jordan Scott, scoring chances were far and few between for the Pacers, who were forced to play defense all night. But for 26 minutes the Swiss kept Oldenburg off the board and nearly pulled off a shocker when Kenzie Taylor's shot went right across the open face of the Twister goal and nearly went in.

But the Pacers couldn't hold out forever and the Twisters finally broke through in the the 26th minute when Jalyn Stenger got behind the Swiss defense and beat Scott one-on-one.

The rapidly tiring Pacers gave up two more goals late in the first half — in the 34th minute by Emma Weberding and in the 38th by Pamela Meneses — to take a 3-0 lead into the break.

Despite the fatigue, Switzerland limited Oldenburg to just two goals in the second half, by Rachel Lamping in the 46th and Avery Hammerle in the 57th, for the final margin. The Pacers had two good looks late in the game, including a shot by Kayley Jones with 10 minutes to play, but couldn't break the shutout.

"The game plan was to play four defense flat and my wings to push up when we can and take what the game gave us," Dayadharum said. "Had I had the numbers, that (first attempt by Taylor) would have been in. We had four good chances. If you look at it that way, it's 5-4."

The loss ended what was a special season for Switzerland. The Pacers went 12-2-2 overall and won a share of the Ohio River Valley Conference title despite starting six freshmen. Thursday's game was a rematch of not only the last two sectional championship games, but a 0-0 draw just three weeks ago.

"The girls bought in from the very first practice. I could tell from their heart and determination that they were ready," Dayadharum said. "They just bought in and had the will to win."

Switzerland gradates three seniors — Sierra Mills, Scott, and Jayden Thomas — while bringing back nine starters and adds a talented eighth-grade class giving the Pacers a bright future.

Oldenburg will attempt to win its third-straight sectional crown — and fourth in the past five years — when it takes on Milan tonight. The Indians, which shared the ORVC title with Switzerland, knocked off South Ripley 3-2 in Thursday's other semifinal.