WARSAW – There wasn’t much drama in the semi-finals of the Warsaw Girls Soccer Sectional Thursday evening. NorthWood and Warsaw both took care of business with matching 4-0 wins over Wawasee and Plymouth, respectively, to advance to the finals.
NorthWood emerged the more polished of the two squads, overwhelming Wawasee with possession and some timely goals. A free kick from 30 yards out by Avery Bontrager crossed up Wawasee keeper Kayla White, finding the upper 90 in just the 10th minute. Five minutes later, a cross from Savannah Freenstra looked as though it was intended to swing back into the field of play from the end line. The ball, however, swerved back toward goal, hit the post, and harmlessly found shelter in the back of the net.
The 2-0 lead was more than enough for the Panthers.
“The free kick went the way we wanted it to, Avery stepped up and hit the ball well,” said NorthWood skipper Phil Ummel. “The second goal, we wanted the ball on the endline to send it back to the face of the goal. Savannah was trying to do that, she just mishit it a little. She just hooked it a little too much, but it took a good bounce for us.”
Betsy Nunemaker got a goal in the 43rd minute and Tatiana Guillen closed out the scoring two minutes from time with a rebound goal off her own miss that hit the post.
NorthWood had 16 shots in the match to just one from Wawasee, which was held without a chance until the 69th minute on a Leigh-Ann Shrack ball that Sarah Eberle had no trouble scooping up.
The Panthers (7-7-2) advance to its first sectional final since 2013, where it lost to Warsaw in a 1-0 final. NorthWood has never won a title, Wawasee (5-12) still hasn’t won a title since 2007.
“I don’t know if we were nervous, but we didn’t come out great in the first 20 minutes,” said Wawasee frontman Doug Heinisch. “They kind of took it to us and they took control of the game.”
Tigers’ Sudden Outburst
Plymouth gave Warsaw all it could handle for the first 48 minutes of the second match of the night. The Tigers, however, responded to just a 1-0 lead with three goals in 11 minutes, completely shifting the tide of the contest.
“We talked at halftime about intelligence of play on some of the runs,” said Warsaw head coach Peter Lucht of his team’s adjustment for the second half, leading to the goals. “We needed to be smart on our passes and a little bit smarter on our runs. We saw some combination play. We also talked about speed of play in the center.
“They packed everybody into the center of the 18. I even joked they were bringing in subs from the sideline just to get them in front of the ball. It just seemed they crowded inside the 18. We had to move the ball faster and be more intentional in our runs. Once we got the combinations down, it created more opportunities.”
Brenna Buhrt had the lone goal of the match up through 48 minutes, scoring on a feed from Julie Frazzetta in the eighth minute. The flood gates opened in the 49th minute when Buhrt found room in the middle of the Plymouth defense to a breaking Delaney Taylor, whose touch to the left corner was true for a 2-0 lead.
Six minutes later, Abby Steffensmeier was brought down in the penalty box on a scoring chance. Frazzetta cashed in the try, and five minutes later, Taylor whistled through the Plymouth defense again, sending a rocket into the back of the net for an overwhelming four-goal cushion.
Warsaw, which only beat Plymouth 2-1 in Northern Lakes Conference play, held the Pilgrims (6-8-2) to just two shot attempts in the match, one of those on a 40-yard free kick that keeper Kaylee Patton caught without opposition. The Tigers controlled the pace of play, taking 16 shots on net and having a handful of other chances nearly hit the mark.
Warsaw, now 15-4 overall, has won 13 of its last 14 matches which began with the Plymouth win on Aug. 23. The Tigers are seeking its sixth sectional title in seven years. The Warsaw-NorthWood match will start at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Tiger Soccer Complex. Warsaw beat NorthWood 5-0 at home on Aug. 25 in their regular-season matchup.