GOSHEN – Several ‘on paper’ aspects of Wednesday’s opening game of the Goshen Girls Soccer Regional could work against Warsaw. The opponent, the location, the records. But according to Warsaw head coach Peter Lucht, none of that matters when the center referee blows the whistle to open the most important 80 minutes of the soccer season.
“Some may point to our opponent and say, ‘they beat you this year.’ I say, ‘so what?’” said Lucht. “Our girls have battled through all kinds of conflicts this year and time and time again, they have shown their character, their tenacity and their willingness to fight.”
Goshen is certainly not a push over, and the paper statistics certainly would create a fine argument. Coming into the regional opener at 16-1-1 overall, Goshen’s only loss came early in the season to Mishawaka Marian and tied Plymouth during the Northern Lakes Conference season, still running 6-0-1 mark for the league title. During that stretch, Goshen beat Warsaw 2-0 in September.
Goshen has also shut out 13 opponents this season, a school record, and the dynamic duo of Aylissa Trosper and Jeltiza Palomino have been incredible. Trosper has been the orchestrator, but Palomino has been the executioner. Palomino, just a junior, already holds Goshen’s all-time goal scoring mark at 53, six above the old mark, and has tucked away 15 this season.
Lucht is more than aware of what Goshen can do, and isn’t taking the challenge lightly.
“I believe that if we play at our best, we have the ability to play with and beat anyone,” Lucht said. “If we do not play at our best, of course we can go home.”
Warsaw, like Goshen, comes in with a gaudy record and has been solid on both ends of the pitch. The Lady Tigers are 13-2, with only blemishes to Northern Lakes Conference foes Goshen and Northridge in red. Warsaw owns a win against Marian, and outscored its sectional opponents, NorthWood and Culver Academy, 7-1 heading into the regional clash.
Warsaw’s own dynamic duo of Brooklyn Jackson and Elizabeth Van Wormer accounted for all seven of those goals in the sectional, and will be a force for Goshen to deal with for all 80 minutes. The two Warsaw midfielders have the green light to shoot from anywhere, and Van Wormer will shoot from 35 yards out, as she did on a handful of occasions, and scored against NorthWood from that distance.
The health of Van Wormer, however, will be in question as the star went down with a leg injury late in the Culver match and limped off the field. While walking on her own power after the championship, her health will be a concern.
Warsaw isn’t just the sum of two parts, as weapons all over the field create a dynamic Goshen will have to mark. Clair Snodgrass gives Warsaw a real scoring threat from the stopper position, given the blessing by Lucht to run forward with the offense on counters and on set pieces. Wingers Megan Kratzsch and Sydney Wiedeman both have impacted the offense, and midfielders Julie Frazzetta and Brenna Shipley have created offensive chances of late.
Warsaw’s defense has been solid, strung together by Snodgrass, but anchored by Breck Jackson and Rachel McClelland. Standing in front of rapidly improving Gabby Herman in net, the Lady Tiger defense will face a stiff challenge with all of Goshen’s offensive power.
The game one winner, which is a 5:30 p.m. start, will take on perennial powers Penn or St. Joe in Saturday night’s final. Penn comes into the second Wednesday match 16-2-1 and ranked No. 7 in the state while St. Joe sits at 14-4-1 and rated No. 14 in the latest Class 2-A poll. Penn is playing in its eighth straight regional after winning its 13th sectional while St. Joe makes its seventh consecutive regional after claiming the 14th sectional title in program history.