The No. 2 Tigers bid for a berth in the state championship match comes in very familiar territory as they play host to the Class 2-A Warsaw Semistate.
Warsaw, 18-1-2 on the field this fall, needs just two more wins at home to earn a trip to Indianapolis on Oct. 27 to play for a state title. The Tigers, who lost in the semi state title game a year ago, advanced to the State Finals in 2010 during the old one-class state tournament series.
The first obstacle for the experienced Tigers, who are in the semi state for the fifth straight year, is No. 14 DeKalb (18-2) at noon Saturday. The 10 a.m. semi state opener pits Hamilton Southeastern (11-7-3) vs. No. 7 Valparaiso (18-2).
The semi state title match is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at WCHS.
“Dekalb will be one of the biggest teams we have played,” said Warsaw coach Scott Bauer. “They will be physical. They play pretty direct and will try to put our back four under consistent pressure with long balls and high pressure. They have a lot of speed up top and look to get in behind the defense. Valpo should come out of the other semi-final and play a more possession game. They are also very strong defensively.
“Against Dekalb, we will need to take care of our chances we create. We will need to keep our composure against their high pressure. Because I feel we should be able to create periods of sustained possession we will need prevent the one long ball that beats all from coming out of their defensive third. Valpo should be interesting because I think we will both approach the match with purposeful possession that probes and looks to unlock the defense.”
The Tigers, whose official record is 12-8-1 due to several forfeits due to a clerical error involving a transfer player, won the tough Mishawaka Regional. Warsaw beat South Bend St. Joseph 1-0 last Thursday on a goal by Nate Kolbe. The Tigers then blasted No. 12 Elkhart Central in rainy and windy conditions by a 4-1 final Saturday night as Diego Lopez scored twice in the opening half and Kolbe added a pair in the second half.
Bauer knows experience should play a beneficial factor for his seasoned team. The Tigers, who lost 1-0 (5-3 on PK’s) to Crown Point in last year’s semi state title match, have nine seniors (six of whom are starters). Both DeKalb and Hamilton Southeastern are playing in the semi state for the first time ever and this is Valparaiso’s fifth, but first since 2005. DeKalb defeated No. 19 Homestead 2-0 and Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger 2-1 to win the Fort Wayne Carroll Regional.
“It’s helpful to have been here before because it’s not just about being there, but now pushing further, ” Bauer said. “I get the sense my kids feel seasoned in this type of environment and that’s helpful. These guys really want to go farther than any soccer team in school history. They’ve had a taste of what could be and they like it.
“Preparation and focus is a balancing act this late in the season. As a coach you want them on a razor’s edge, but not overdoing the work harder piece. Its been a long season and you want them to still want to move on because it’s fun and they enjoy being around their mates. The boys understand what it takes to win postseason matches by now.”
The Tigers have been dominant on defense all year thanks to superb keeper play by senior Michael Yantz and a back end anchored by the likes of junior defenders Stephen Kolbe, Matt Williams and Gustavo Rodriguez. The midfield play has also been outstanding thanks to players like seniors Grant Allbritten, TJ Hofer and Ethan Goodman, junior Bryce Smith and sophomore Sam Allbritten. Warsaw, whose lone loss was a 1-0 setback at home to Fort Wayne Carroll in early September, has outscored its opponents 62-9. The Tigers have allowed more than one goal in a game just once all season, in a 3-2 win over NLC foe NorthWood.
Nate Kolbe now leads the Tigers in scoring with 17 goals. Lopez, despite missing five games, has 16 goals. The standout forward and Division I prospect had three in Warsaw’s sectional championship game win over Culver Academies.
The Warsaw Semistate champion advances to play in the Class 2-A state championship contest on Saturday, Oct. 27 at 3:30 p.m. on the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis. They will play the winner of the Evansville Harrison Semistate. That site on Saturday has No. 18 Indianapolis Cathedral (14-5-1) playing No. 6 Columbus North (14-1-4) and No. 4 Center Grove (17-2-1) taking on No. 3 Evansville Memorial (19-3) in semifinal action.