There were plenty of good moments to go around for the Tigers at night’s end thanks in large part to the performance of its stellar senior class.
With a big assist, or this case big saves, to one very vital junior between the pipes for the Tigers.
Monroy, one of nine seniors for Warsaw, smartly put home the game winning goal and junior keeper Abby Schue was a wall in the net as the Tigers edged past Penn 2-1 in a semifinal game of the Class 2-A Goshen Regional.
On a chilly evening, an experienced, composed and focused Tiger team warmed the hearts of their faithful fans by earning a berth in Saturday night’s regional title game. Warsaw (13-4-2) meets No. 4 and defending regional champion South Bend St. Joseph (18-2) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The winner advances to the South Bend St. Joseph Semistate Oct. 20.
St. Joe, which won a state championship in 2010, beat Concord 3-0 in Wednesday night’s first semifinal contest. The Indians beat Warsaw 4-2 in a regional semifinal game a year ago.
Warsaw coach Dan Miller, his team in the regional for the third straight year, pointed to the work of his seniors.
“We were the more experienced team tonight and our seniors wanted it,” said Miller, whose starting lineup included eight seniors. “We have a lot of senior leadership. Tonight, we had the composure and the belief to get it done.”Monroy, a senior forward, hit the game winner in the 54th minute after the Kingsmen knotted the contest in the 42nd minute. The hard-charging Monroy drew the keeper out and then deftly dribbled past her and deposited the ball into the back of the net very cooly and calmly.
“I saw their goalie coming out right at me and I was going to chip it over her,” explained Monroy of her winner. “Then, I decided to give it one more tap and shoot it. It was a big rush. A really good moment. I’m just very excited and pumped.
“We were just focused and ready to go tonight and on it. All the seniors on this team are leaders. Everyone was positive and encouraging tonight after Penn scored to tie it. I feel we can win this Saturday if we come out focused and play as hard as we did tonight.”
Miller praised the work of Monroy, who also assisted on a goal scored by star Meredith Hollar just 17 seconds into the match to give Warsaw a 1-0 lead. Hollar, the program’s all-time leading goals scorer with 67, assisted on the game winner by Monroy.
“Credit her (Gabby) with the composure she showed,” Miller said. “We tell them to take their time and dribble in 1-on-1 situations like that with the keeper out and Gabby listened.
“On the first goal to be honest, I really only saw the end result. But, on both goals, Gabby showed good composure.”Penn outshot Warsaw 19-4 and had a 5-2 advantage in corner kick chances. The Kingsmen put the pressure on in the final half with a slew of scoring chances, but Schue was up to the challenge. She came up with 18 saves, including at least a handful of tough stops, and several of the outstanding variety with diving saves.
“I thought it was very-evenly played,” said Miller. “Yes, Penn had more shots, but some of those were from 20-30 yards out. I like my keeper’s chances on those. Abby had a couple of spectacular stops tonight. But, I’ve seen that all year from her. I think she’s one of the best keepers in the state.”
Penn, which finishes at 12-5-4, did tie the contest as senior Diana Diaz-Diurych scored on a rebound putback goal in front of a crowded net just 1:38 into the second half to make it 1-1.
From there, Schue was rock solid in the net for the Tigers, denying any and all Penn scoring opportunities with an outstanding effort for the winners.
“I was thinking I can’t let anything in,” said Schue of her mindset after Monroy made it 2-1 with 26:08 still left in the game. “I was praying to God to give me strength. They had the one shot that I dove and deflected and I thought it was in. It was so close.
“I just tried to play this like a normal game and don’t think about the pressure. I’m so happy. This is awesome to get to play in my first regional championship Saturday. I’m honored to do this and to help our team win.”
The Kingsmen, who beat Warsaw 3-1 in a regional semifinal game in 2010, started five seniors in Wednesday’s match. Junior keepers Ashley Waite and Maya Solomon each had one save for Penn.St. Joe defeated Concord on goals by Samantha Kambol, Amanda Hastings and Catherine Raster in posting their 12th shutout of the season. Coach Johan Kuitse’s squad’s losses this year were 2-1 at NIC foe Penn Sept. 19 and 1-0 to No. 1 Carmel in a tournament Aug. 18. The Indians returned just four starters from last year’s 18-4 team which lost in the semi state final.
St. Joe has won nine regional championships in its rich program history, including three in a row. Warsaw owns three regional crowns, winning a trio in a row from 2001-03.
“St. Joe is tough and we know the challenge on Saturday,” said Miller. “We’ll practice hard and prepare the next two days. There’s motivation. They put us out of the regional last year.”