WARSAW – Could it really be this easy?
After after being pushed to the brink of elimination on Wednesday night, the Warsaw boys soccer team knew it had to be on its game Saturday afternoon to avoid leaving its season in the hands of an old rival. The Tigers escaped with ease and left no room for error in a dominating 7-0 defeat of Northern Lakes Conference foe Plymouth in the IHSAA Class 2A Warsaw Sectional Championship.
While the Pilgrims certainly competed hard for 80 minutes, they never seemed to reach the level of intensity or physicality that Warsaw was at. Perhaps more importantly, the Pilgrims did not have Tito Cuellar.
Cuellar, a junior, got the Tigers going early with two goals (6′, 12′). But Cuellar did not stop there. After a goal by way of a penalty kick from Miguel Rivera (33′) in the first half, Cuellar added two more goals (42′, 48′) at the start of the second half to help propel Warsaw to a 5-0 lead with over thirty minutes left in the contest.
Warsaw head coach Scott Bauer was candid when speaking of his midfielder, “Tito was just where he needed to be to put balls away today. Not only that but he did it with flair. He’s fun to watch. He was attacking the box with that desire to get goals. He likes to score goals.”
Of course, with his team flying high at halftime with a 3-0 lead, Bauer had to remind his team to stay focused and to not let Plymouth pull off the same kind of comeback that Warsaw had just a few days prior when they rallied for a 3-0 second-half deficit to stun Culver Academies 4-3 in semifinal play Wednesday night.
“I told them at halftime that I heard about this team that came back from three down. Which, of course, was in their memory,” Bauer said with a smile.
Warsaw, the state runner-up a year ago, did not let Plymouth back into the game, or even on the scoreboard in the second half but instead continued its dominance.
After Cuellar’s goals Warsaw received scores from sophomore Brandon Reinholt (56′) and freshman Pedro Monsivais (80′) to complete the 7-0 win. The Tigers have now scored 11 unanswered goals this postseason.
No. 9 Warsaw (12-2-5) will look to keep that momentum going as they travel to the Class 2A Mishawaka Regional next Thursday. Bauer and the Tigers have won six consecutive soccer sectional titles and five straight regional championships and Bauer knows his team can do it again.
“The regional is going to be tough. But we believe we can play with anybody in the regional. We could see Concord or Northridge, both of those games were close and St. Joe is a good team. But we like our chances and we hope we can get back here for semi-state,” stated Bauer.
A humble Cuellar took time after the game to talk not about his performance, but rather the play of his team and what they need to do to keep the season alive, “Our team knew we could not lose here, at home. This was an important game and we wanted to win. Everybody was pumped up and really excited about it.
“We just have to work hard, keep talking with each other on the field and stay motivated and we can get through the regional.”
Warsaw (12-2-5) will face South Bend St. Joseph (12-5) in the second semifinal game of the Mishawaka Regional Thursday at around 7 p.m. at Baker Park. The 5 p.m. opener will pit Penn (11-4-4) versus No. 18 Northridge (13-3-3). The winners then meet for the regional title at 7 p.m. Oct. 19 at Baker Park for a spot in the Warsaw Semistate Oct. 26.