The Tigers posted a hard-fought 2-1 win over conference foe NorthWood Saturday night at home to claim the program’s third straight sectional championship.
Now, it’s on to a matchup with a strong Penn team in a regional semifinal game Wednesday in the Class 2-A Goshen Regional. No. 4 South Bend St. Joseph (17-2) meets Concord (15-1-2) in the 5 p.m. opener Wednesday with Warsaw (12-4-2) versus Penn (12-4-4) to follow.
The semifinal winners return to Goshen Saturday night at 7 p.m. to play for a regional title and a spot in the South Bend St. Joseph Semistate on Oct. 20.
“I expect this game to be an even match-up between two very quality teams,” said Miller of facing the Kingsmen. “We have a similar record and similar results and we both seem to be playing our best soccer of the season just at the right time. All of that will make this a highly competitive game on Wednesday night.”
St. Joseph, which won the state title in 2010, won last year’s regional. The Indians beat Warsaw 4-2 in a semifinal contest and then topped Penn 4-1 in the title match. The Indians, who lost in the semi state final to Hamilton Southeastern 2-0 in 2011, have 11 shutouts this season. Coach Johan Kuitse’s tremendous program is in the regional for the fifth straight year. Penn is making its sixth straight regional appearance, while Concord is making its first since 2004. The Minutemen, who Warsaw lost to 2-0 on Sept. 6 at Concord, beat No. 15 Northridge Saturday to win the Goshen Sectional crown.
St. Joseph, which beat Washington 2-0 to win its own sectional title, lost 2-1 at Penn Sept. 19. The Indians, who returned just four starters from last year, also lost 1-0 to Carmel on Aug. 18. Senior Catherine Raster leads St. Joseph with 23 goals, while junior Maddie Turner has 14 assists.
“St. Joe will certainly be the favorite, but at this level any team is capable of winning the regional if things go their way,” Miller said. “We may be a slight underdog in the eyes of coaches around the state, but we feel confident as a team that we can win.”
Miller points to defense as a big key versus the Kingsmen.
“We’re going to spend some time fine tuning our defense for Wednesday, minimizing defensive breakdowns will be huge in this match,” emphasized Miller. “The keys for us on Wednesday will be no defensive breakdowns, finish the opportunities we get and control possession in midfield.”
Warsaw will be led by star Meredith Hollar come Wednesday. The senior broke the school’s career scoring record last week in the Warsaw Sectional. She now has 66 career goals, surpassing the 61 set by Ashley Kitchens. Hollar, who missed all of her junior season and five games earlier this season due to knee injuries, scored both goals in Saturday night’s sectional title game win.
Hollar, a forward who will play at Grace College, is one of nine seniors for the Tigers. Senior Gabby Monroy has had a big season for Warsaw, while junior Abby Schue has been fantastic at keeper for the Tigers.
“I feel like she is playing care free soccer again,” said Miller of Hollar. “There just seemed to be a weight on her shoulders that was lifted when she broke the record. I’m happy for her and the team in helping her reach this achievement. It took a lot of hard work to accomplish the feat.”