WARSAW – Coach Scott Bauer says the bus rides back home with his Warsaw boys soccer team are “unique” and “fun.”
Bauer would love to be able to take one more of those entertaining bus rides with his successful squad this season.
That would be a bus ride home from the State Finals on Saturday, Nov. 2.
The Tigers look to earn a return trip to Indianapolis with two more wins in the Class 2-A Warsaw Semistate this Saturday.
The first obstacle between the No. 9 Tigers (14-2-5), the state runner-up in 2012, and a spot back in the Circle City is a semifinal clash with No. 4 Crown Point (18-0-1) at noon. The 10 a.m. opener pits Marion (16-3) versus Fort Wayne Canterbury (13-7-1).
The semi state title match is slated for 7 p.m. Saturday at WCHS. That winner will advance to the state championship game on Nov. 2 at 6 p.m. at IUPUI.
Warsaw is making its sixth straight semi state appearance. The Tigers earned it with hard-fought regional wins over South Bend St. Joseph 2-1 (5-4 PK) and No. 18 Northridge 1-0.
“It’s been very rewarding to see the efforts of my boys result in this,” said Bauer of the success this fall. “Our seniors really wanted this. They didn’t want to be the ones not to make their mark.”
Warsaw took some time to find its niche this fall. The Tigers lost nine seniors to graduation from last year’s team that lost 1-0 to Columbus North in the state title match. Among those lost to graduation were top scorers Nate Kolbe and Diego Lopez and standout keeper Michael Yantz.
“I was a little apprehensive about our chances to do this again earlier in the year,” admitted Bauer. “We were searching to find an identity.
“But this team always find a way to get it done. They are scrappy and they have a real steel down their spine. They play hard for each other. It’s been a group effort.”
Bauer says the past history of success does help continue the tradition of winning within his program.
“I’ve been blessed to have great talent in this run,” said Bauer. “You develop a mentality. There’s a sense of belief that we are capable of deep postseason runs.
“The thing is that I have great coaches around me in our program and our guys see that and trust us. Our coaching staff is close and everyone knows their roles and has input. It’s a group effort there as well.”
Warsaw has flourished this postseason since a miraculous comeback in the sectional semifinal game at home versus Culver Academies. The Tigers trailed 3-0 before rallying in the final 22 minutes for a thrilling 4-3 win. Warsaw then beat Plymouth 7-0 in the sectional final before surviving a pair of tough games to win the Mishawaka Regional.
Crown Point and the Tigers do have a little bit of a history. The Bulldogs beat Warsaw 1-0 (5-3 PK) in the semi state final in 2011. Crown Point went on to defeat Columbus North 1-0 (4-2 PK) to win the state championship.
The No. 4 Bulldogs have outscored four foes in postseason play by a 19-1 count. Crown Point blanked Merrillville 5-0 and Kankakee Valley 6-0 to win the Merrillville Sectional. The Bulldogs then beat Lake Central 5-1 and No. 14 Chesterton 3-0 to claim the Merrillville Regional title.
Fort Wayne Canterbury, which moved up to 2-A this year, beat Bellmont 3-0 and No. 16 DeKalb 2-1 to win the Fort Wayne Carroll Regional. Marion topped Yorktown 2-0 and Noblesville 2-1 (4-3 PK) in winning the Kokomo Regional crown.
Warsaw, the only team returning from last year’s semi state field at Warsaw, did record a 3-2 win over Canterbury at home on Sept. 24. The Cavaliers won their second straight Class 1-A state championship in 2012. The title was also the program’s fifth all-time to tie North Central for the most ever.
The Tigers, who beat DeKalb 2-1 and Hamilton Southeastern 2-1 in overtime to win the semi state title a year ago, start five seniors in Zack Tucker, Matt Williams, Miguel Rivera, Alex Climaco and Stephen Kolbe. Junior Tito Cuellar has seven postseason goals, including the winner in the regional final versus Northridge.
“Crown Point is a very strong side,” noted Bauer. “But, I know that my boys can hang with anyone in the state.
“It comes down to can we put together possessions and create opportunities on Saturday. Then, can we finish? We have to make the most of the chances that we have.”