WARSAW – Michael Yantz has paid his dues.
Come Saturday, the outstanding senior goalie for Warsaw will reap the rewards for his patience and persistence.
Yantz will be a key man as the No. 2 Tigers take aim at the program’s first-ever state championship in Indianapolis.
Warsaw, making its initial appearance in the state title game, faces No. 6 Columbus North in the season finale in Class 2-A. The contest is slated for a 3:30 p.m. start at the Michael A. Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium on the IUPUI campus.
Yantz, who was the backup keeper a year ago, is a big reason why Warsaw sits on the verge of a state title. The 6-3 goalie has allowed just nine goals in 23 games with 68 saves and 14 shutouts. The Tigers are 20-1-2 on the field, with just a 1-0 loss to Fort Wayne Carroll.
“I knew what I had on the bench last year when Michael was our No. 2 keeper to David Johnson,” said Warsaw coach Scott Bauer. “I had the second best keeper around. He put in the time and this is his year. We talked about that after last season.”
Yantz used his role as a backup to fine tune his craft. The Tigers, who are more of a defensive-oriented team this season, went 18-4-1 in 2011 before losing in the semi state championship game to eventual state champion Crown Point 1-0 (5-3 PK).
“I just looked at everything he (David) did last year and kept my head up,” said Yantz of being a backup as a junior. “I used it as a learning opportunity. I think it’s paid off a lot for me.”
Yantz, one of seven seniors who start for the Tigers, has allowed just four goals in six postseason games.
“The thing is how well we all get along and the fact that we have great players all over the field,” said Yantz about the key to his team’s success. “It’s crazy to think about from freshman year to now. I’m proud of what we’ve done and how well we’ve done.
“It’s a great identity to have to be the first Warsaw boys soccer team to play in a state championship game. All of us have worked hard as a team to get to this point.”
Yantz is someone that Bauer does not have to worry about.
“His approach to the game is almost professional,” said Bauer of his standout in the net. “He’s so mature and does it all on his own to be ready every game. I don’t worry about Michael. He’s a Division I player.”
Yantz says much of his work is between the ears.
“There’s a lot of mental work behind being a good keeper,” Yantz explained. “It’s about being prepared and being aware all the time on the field. You have to be sharp for all 80 minutes in a game. It’s all about your mindset.
“The biggest thing you need is confidence. That’s what you have to have back there to be successful. For me, it’s all business come game time.”
“The thing for us is that we have 80 minutes to play. We can do it on Saturday if everyone is prepared and all of us play our hardest.”
Bauer also likes his team’s chances. The Tigers have developed their own identity through a season full of ups and downs. Warsaw had to forfeit seven games just before the sectional (thus making its’ official record 13-8-2) due to paperwork not being done correctly which allowed an ineligible player to compete. Those forfeits cost the Tigers the Northern Lakes Conference championship, but they have not missed a beat.
“This is what these seniors have worked for four years and what the program has for the last 12,” said Bauer of the opportunity to win a state title. “This is our biggest moment. I think it’s certainly doable for us.”
Bauer has plenty of reasons to feel confident. The scoring punch of seniors Nate Kolbe (20 goals, 11 assists) and Diego Lopez (16 goals) are formidable. Kolbe had three of his team’s four goals in a pair of 2-1 semi state wins at home last Saturday, including both in the title game win over Hamilton Southeastern.
“I think we have the best 1-2 punch in the state in Nate and Diego and it’s tough to mark both of them,” Bauer said. “It’s pick your poison. My defense is up to the task and I think I have the best keeper. I think maybe we have the upper hand. But, I haven’t seen Columbus North play and they didn’t get here by accident.
“We need to put pressure on them and shut down their top scorer (Brad Shaw). We do that, I like our chances.”
The Bulldogs start seven seniors and have posted 11 shutouts. Senior Brad Shaw is their top scorer with 16 goals. Columbus North went 18-3-2 a year ago, losing to Crown Point 1-0 (4-2 PK) in the state title game. Their lone loss this season was a 2-1 decision to Bloomington South. North beat No. 18 Cathedral 3-2 and No. 4 Center Grove 3-1 in the semi state last Saturday and have outscored their six foes in the state tournament 17-5.
Warsaw and Columbus North have played two common opponents this season. The Tigers beat NLC foe Northridge 3-0, while the Bulldogs tied the Raiders 2-2. Warsaw defeated Fort Wayne Canterbury (which is playing in the Class 1-A state title game Saturday) 1-0 and North beat the Cavaliers 4-3.