Now, the No. 2 Tigers will get a chance to play for No. 1.
Nate Kolbe continued his postseason heroics Saturday evening as the host Tigers topped Hamilton Southeastern 2-1 in overtime in the title match of the Class 2-A Warsaw Semistate.
Warsaw, thanks to a pair of goals by Kolbe, earns a trip to Indianapolis next Saturday to play for the program’s first-ever state championship. The Tigers, who are 20-1-2 on the field, face No. 6 Columbus North (16-1-4) at 3:30 p.m. at the Michael A. Carroll Track and Field Stadium on the IUPUI campus.
Columbus North earned its fourth semi state title Saturday by defeating No. 18 Cathedral 3-2 and No. 4 Center Grove 3-1 to win the Evansville Harrison Semistate. Columbus North was state runner-up in 2011, losing to Crown Point 1-0 (4-3 PK) in the title tilt. Crown Point was the team that eliminated Warsaw a year ago, 1-0 (5-3 PK) in the semi state final in Warsaw.
Kolbe made sure this time around that the semi state finale would not go to penalty kicks like a year ago. The speedy senior capped a brilliant day with the game winner with 5:02 to play in the first, seven-minute overtime session. Zack Tucker assisted on the goal, which was Kolbe’s third of the day in two wins.“I can’t put into words what this means,” said Kolbe, the team’s leading scorer with 20 goals. “It’s surreal. We had been in this game twice before and had the experience. We didn’t want it to go back to PKs. We really wanted that second goal.
“In overtime, I couldn’t feel my legs. I called for it, Zack got it to me and I saw it go in the goal.”
Kolbe has been on some kind of roll in the last week and a half. The fast forward, one of nine seniors for the Tigers, also had the lone goal in a regional semifinal win over South Bend St. Joseph and two more in a 4-1 victory in the regional title tilt versus No. 12 Elkhart Central.
“Nate had another great game tonight,” said Warsaw coach Scott Bauer. “He’s worked hard and sells out. His first step to the ball is phenomenal. But, he doesn’t get those opportunities without Diego (Lopez) out there.”
Warsaw took a 1-0 lead with just 5:25 to play in the opening half as Kolbe took a long ball from Matt Williams and deposited it into the back of the net.
Hamilton Southeastern, in its first-ever semi state, rallied in its bid for a second upset of the day. The Royals, who knocked off No. 7 Valparaiso 2-0 in the semifinals, tied the game with 25:05 to play on a goal by Kyle Messer.
Hamilton Southeastern, which finishes at 12-8-3, just missed taking the lead only 30 seconds into overtime play. A great shot attempt by the Royals caromed off the post to keep the game tied at 1-1.The Tigers have found their identity this season after losing offensive standouts Corey Lopez and Jose Rodriguez from last year’s team that went 18-4-1. Lopez, the older brother of current Warsaw senior star Diego Lopez, is now playing at Indiana Wesleyan, while Rodriguez is playing at IPFW.
“To make it to State this year with all we lost and with not a lot of people thinking we could do it is a real special feeling,” said Bauer. “These guys have adapted. There was a lot of pressure on them to win the sectional after the forfeits so that we would have something to show for the season. Once that was done, some of the pressure was off.
“This team’s identity at the start of the season was still from last year’s team. They were able to find their identity. We wouldn’t be here without the leadership from our seniors, guys like Grant Allbritten.
“We knew Hamilton was a more possession type team. We knew we were going to find ways to create opportunities and we did.”
Warsaw’s big game experience was key too. The Tigers were in the semi state for the fifth straight year.
“There was some dread in the pit of my stomach when they tied it 1-1,” admitted Kolbe. “But, we’ve been here before.”
Warsaw has now outscored its opponents 63-10 this season. The Tigers official record now stands at 13-8-2 after the team was forced to forfeit six wins and a draw just before sectional play started due to a clerical error involving a player who had transferred to WCHS.