WARSAW – As the full moon hung over the fog-covered pitch Tuesday night, it felt as though a clock tower should have struck midnight. The impending doom of Wawasee’s girls soccer season didn’t have a Cinderella finish, a 2-0 loss to Plymouth in the first game of the Warsaw Girls Soccer Sectional.
In what arguably could be classified as Wawasee’s best overall game since the first week of the season, the Lady Warriors just didn’t have enough firepower to keep up with Plymouth. The Lady Pilgrims outshot Wawasee 23-0 in the contest, and the constant peppering finally caught up to the Lady Warriors’ bend-but-don’t-break defense.
After a scoreless first half, Plymouth finally broke the silence just seconds into the second half. A 50/50 ball between Plymouth’s Kara Morwood and Wawasee keeper Nicole Streby was saved by Streby, but caromed back into the muck of humanity. A second shot by Stacy Diaz rattled off and down from the crossbar, and subsequently ruled by the assistant referee to have crossed the mouth of the goal before Streby could recover it.
Plymouth, which had sent nine shots on net in the first half, including two off the crossbar, felt the relief of one finally going in.
“They needed to just get that security,” said Plymouth head coach Stephanie Ferch. “They got the lead and got a little more confidence up top. To have a couple sink into the net really felt good.”
It would take 23 minutes later for Plymouth to find its second goal. A pass through a pair of Wawasee defenders by Emily Morris found Bailey Brown, who cracked a shot Streby had no chance on. The doubling of the lead was all Plymouth needed, as it settled in and didn’t allow Wawasee even a chance at net the remainder of the match.
“Defensively, if you give up one goal, I think you’ve done a decent job, it then comes on the offense to convert on some opportunities,” Wawasee head coach Doug Heinisch said. “One goal is not a breaker, three goals in 10 minutes kills you. That’s what has happened to us. I feel like we have made progress and made improvement this season. We still have a ways to go.”
Wawasee only was able to build two real offensive chances in the match. A clearance from the defensive third in the 37th minute found a streaking Brooklyn McCullough, whose first touch was intercepted by Plymouth keeper Katie Berg. The Lady Warriors’ other opportunity came in the 54th minute, where a corner kick by Caitlin Clevenger found McCullough, but her shot whistled well north of the Plymouth goal and away from danger.
Berg’s shutout helped Plymouth move to 8-5-4 overall and a date with neighboring Culver Academy in Thursday’s second semi-final. Streby finished with 15 saves and a solid effort for Wawasee (2-15) that played much better than its final record will indicate.
“Nicole has been solid all year,” Heinisch said. “We had three top problems when the season began, and one of them was goal. Nicole has stepped in and has been solid. The ones she is supposed to save she saves and she gets a few others, too. She really stepped up this year.”
Game one Thursday will have Northern Lakes Conference rivals Warsaw and NorthWood meet. Warsaw beat NorthWood, 4-0, earlier this season while Plymouth and the Academy played just one half this past weekend in a match affected by inclement weather.