SOUTH WHITLEY – Sarah Lancaster will get the glory of scoring the only goal of a 1-0 Wawasee girls soccer win at Whitko Monday night, but Leigh-Ann Shrack deserves much of the credit. Shrack’s nose for the ball with 11 minutes to play led to the initial shot that careened to Lancaster, which the forward buried for the game winner.
In a game where the ball spent most of its time rolling out of bounds or being pinballed through the respective midfields, it was short, quick bursts that provided the game’s magical moments.
Lancaster’s fortune in the 69th minute came after Shrack’s volley was swatted by Whitko goalkeeper Ilyssa Bennett. As the ball rolled helplessly into the penalty area, Lancaster used her left foot to find the unattended net for the tally.
The Lady Warriors really had not threatened the Whitko net up until that point, and nearly stole a second shot a minute later when an errant distribution by Bennett landed in Lancaster’s lap about 25 yards from goal, but the return shot was saved nicely.
“Leigh-Ann really made that happen,” said Wawasee head coach Doug Heinisch of the goal. “She made something happen by getting a nice shot off. She drew the defense in, which the deflection went to Sarah, who did what she was supposed to do in following up.”
Whitko really seemed to have deserved better. After a first half of lackluster play, Whitko emerged from the break on fire. One minute into the second half, Heather Bryan lined up and fired a free kick from 20 yards out. Bending in, the ball thumped off the crossbar and went straight down, eventually being corralled by Wawasee keeper Nicole Streby.
Just seconds later, Wawasee was whistled for a handball inside the penalty area. Reghan Craig lined up over the ball on the spot and sent her kick untouched to the corner, but only found post instead of net. The rebound shot also found nothing but post, which Wawasee then cleared of danger.
Another of Bryan’s free kicks seemed destined for greener pastures, but Streby played the ball well and saved it from an upper 90 destination.
“If it’s not a post, it’s right at a goalie,” said Whitko head coach Gary Sims. “We just have not had the luck to get that penalty to bounce inside the post, or a deflection to go our way. We practice corners, we execute some pretty cool stuff in practice. It’s just totally different out here. I’m just hoping the girls are saving it all for sectionals.”
Whitko took seven shots but Streby would make only four saves for her first career shutout, and the second win for Wawasee in 14 tries this season. Bennett pulled in six saves, but the one deflection was a backbreaker for a club that falls to 2-11-1 with one week before entering the sectional tournament.
“Tonight was just one of the things that has happened to us all season,” said Sims. “If you look at some of our scores, maybe a lot of those moments. It’s growing pains. We are young. Four seniors, one freshman, and a roster with 20 kids that are dealing with injuries all over the place. It’s just been one of those seasons.”
Added Heinisch, whose club snaps a 12-match losing skid after winning its first match way back on Aug. 18, “You look at our schedule, with a brutal NLC schedule, and some of those scores on paper don’t really show how well we have played. We just aren’t on those team’s levels yet. Sometimes the scores don’t indicate how we played, or if we made progress. I think tonight showed that we have made some progress, and we were rewarded with a win.”
Whitko will host Columbia City Wednesday in its regular season finale while Wawasee will meet Elkhart Memorial Tuesday in an NLC matchup in Syracuse.