WARSAW – The looks of relief likely matched the number of elated looks on the faces of the girls soccer team from Warsaw.
After defeating Culver Academy, 2-1, in the Warsaw Girls Soccer Sectional championship, the maximum effort Warsaw put in to hold off the Academy was written all over the hometown faces, even after it was handed the sectional championship trophy on its home pitch.
Warsaw were forced to play a full 80 minutes of soccer to earn its fifth straight girls soccer sectional championship, the eighth overall won by the program. While there were no goals scored in the final 22 minutes of the contest, the desperation in Culver Academy pinned Warsaw back, even while the Lady Tigers were on offense.
To force the issue, Warsaw midfielder Brooklyn Jackson provided some incredible heroics. Jackson broke open the scoring in the 12th minute with her first goal in what was the first offensive movement of the game.
A shot by teammate Sydney Wiedeman was blocked by Culver keeper Hannah Fisher, only to rebound back to the middle of the field. Jackson was on the spot and hammered home the goal, her second of the tournament. Jackson took three of Warsaw’s first four shots of the game, but her next was critical.
As Elizabeth Van Wormer weaved through Culver defenders, Jackson made a run right up the gut. Van Wormer played a smart ball to Jackson, who needed just one touch before sending a rocket past Fisher for a 2-0 lead in the 55th minute.
“Brooklyn is a very good player and we use her in three different positions on the field, which forces defenses to have to watch her all over the field,” Warsaw head coach Peter Lucht said. “I don’t think any player that has to go against her would doubt her intensity, her determination and her desire to win. Definitely a congratulations to her on the two goals today.”
The 2-0 lead is said to be the worst to have in soccer, and it proved spot on just three minutes later. Culver took its second consecutive corner, but as the Lady Eagles assembled in the penalty area, head coach Eric Schmidt called out “go to the penalty spot.” The adjustment was key as Culver found the ball first out of the air, and a pinball situation in front of the net had Korryn Brewer tuck home the loose ball to slice the Warsaw lead in half.
“We had won a couple corners earlier in the game and I didn’t feel we were getting deep enough into the 18,” said Schmidt. “When I yelled ‘penalty spot’ I wanted them to move six yards closer to the goal. I wanted to challenge their goal a little more and that opportunity worked out.”
Warsaw would actually hold Culver to just one legitimate scoring attempt in the final 20 minutes, which Lady Tiger keeper Gabby Herman smothered a fleeting through ball that had trouble written all over it. Herman would only make three saves in the contest, the most dramatic a punching clearance of a Culver corner kick in the first half that had a waiting Eagle on the back end if Herman had not tended the cross.
In all, Warsaw outshot Culver 10-3, forcing Fisher to make eight saves. Four of those saves came on free kicks into the box, to which Fisher showed an incredible amount of calm amidst the chaos.
The Academy ends its season at 12-6.
The game did have a scary moment when Van Wormer was injured in a collision in the 74th minute and remained on the turf for several minutes. Van Wormer was able to leave the field on her own power and partook in the postgame celebration, but the injury to her right leg could be crucial to Warsaw’s attack going forward.
Warsaw (13-2) will advance to face Goshen (16-1-1) in Wednesday’s Goshen Girls Soccer Regional. The game will begin at 5 p.m. The de facto home game for Goshen doesn’t bother Lucht, whose side should be ready for a rematch, won by Goshen, 2-0, back on Sept. 2.
“We are going to continue to fight,” Lucht said. “I think the girls should believe in themselves. They have gone through conflict, gone through adversity this season. They should take encouragement for what they have done thus far this season. The regionals are going to have great teams regardless, so we are going to have to play the same game we played all tournament so far. The game doesn’t change.”