MIDDLEBURY – It’s been said that good teams learn more from a loss than a win.
Warsaw girls soccer coach Peter Lucht will find out soon enough if that statement rings true for his talented team.
The Tigers’ reign as Northern Lakes Conference champions ended in the rain Thursday night at Northridge.
The host Raiders earned the league championship with a strong showing to top the defending champion Tigers 2-1 in the NLC and regular-season finale for both teams.
The Class 2-A No. 10 Raiders improve to 14-2 overall and claim the league crown at 7-0. Warsaw, ranked No. 17 in Class 2-A, drops to 13-4 overall and finishes at 6-1 in NLC play.
The Tigers had won 11 in a row dating back to three losses to Hamilton Southeastern, Chesterton and Penn in the South Bend St. Joseph Tournament on August 19-20. Penn, the Class 2-A state runner-up in 2015, is currently ranked No. 1 and Hamilton Southeastern No. 7 in the Class 2-A poll.
Lucht, whose team tied Northridge 1-1 last year to win the program’s first NLC title since 2003 with a 6-0-1 mark, hopes his team takes a valuable lesson away from Thursday night as it prepares to host the sectional next week.
“I hope this is a wakeup call for us,” said Lucht. “If you are not dialed in, anything can happen. The lesson is that we need to focus, execute, make good decisions and follow the gameplan. I told our girls after the game that we played with heart tonight. There’s no doubt about that. We have to play with our heads too.
“This was two excellent teams playing tonight. I credit Bill (Northridge coach Bill Redinger). They have a strong team and a fine program. They are a regional calibre team.”
The Tigers were coming off a dominating 6-1 home win over Class 1-A No. 8 Argos Tuesday night. Northridge had lost at home to No. 14 Carroll 4-1 on Monday night to snap its 13-game winning streak.
Both squads had rolled through their NLC schedule. The Raiders had outscored their six foes by a 28-1 count, while the Tigers had a 32-5 scoring edge in league contests.
Warsaw started strong and controlled about the first 20 minutes of play on a windy, cool and rainy night. The Tigers dented the scoreboard first with 24:07 left in the opening half on a goal by fabulous freshman forward Delaney Taylor.
Northridge found the equalizer just 1:29 after Taylor’s score. A somewhat questionable hand-ball call in the box on the Tigers led to a penalty kick for the hosts. Sophomore Arianna Stoltzfus buried a beautiful pk into the upper corner of the net to make it 1-1.
The Raiders seemed to take the momentum from there and run with it. The hosts got the game winner with 36:25 to play off a corner kick opportunity. The ball was not cleared and sophomore Emma Oxenrider drilled in a second chance shot for the 2-1 final.
“I thought that at about the 20-minute mark is where I felt the game shift,” said Lucht. “We needed to make good decisions and we gave up the ball in bad spots and that forced us to defend. You can’t afford to be on your back feet against a team as strong as Northridge.
“The referee made the call on the pk and she made an excellently placed finish on it. Kaylee (Warsaw keeper Kaylee Patton) made a good effort, but no keeper is going to stop that shot in the upper like that. We didn’t clean up the first off the corner and did not step on the second one and they scored.”
Lucht expects his team to rebound from the loss in preparation of trying to reclaim the sectional title. Warsaw had its streak of five straight sectional championships end last year with a 5-4 loss to Culver Academy in the sectional title tilt at Plymouth. The Tigers play Culver Academy on Tuesday in the sectional opener at home.
“The NLC is a matter of pride and winning it again was certainly a goal of ours this season,” Lucht stated. “But this loss will not be backbreaking. This team is growing and I think they learned a lesson tonight. We have to not only play with our heart, but with our heads too. When we do that, we are a dangerous team.”
Northridge won the junior varsity game by a 5-0 final. The Warsaw JV team falls to 4-9 overall and finishes 3-4 in NLC play. The JV Tigers will host the NLC JV Tournament on Saturday starting at 9 a.m.
Warsaw plays Culver Academy on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Warsaw Sectional. Northridge plays Elkhart Central next Thursday at 5 p.m. in a sectional semifinal game of the Northridge Sectional