WARSAW – As it has done in the sectional tournament this week, Warsaw scored in bunches, once again hitting the mark in a 3-0 win Saturday afternoon against NorthWood in the Warsaw Girls Soccer Sectional championship game.
Within about a 19-hour stretch, there were two scorelines between Warsaw and NorthWood programs that had the potential to raise eyebrows. The 44-point NorthWood halftime lead on the football field Friday night in a conference championship setting sent shockwaves around the area. Not quite the same magnitude Saturday afternoon, but Warsaw needed some serious damage control to sitting tied with heavy underdog NorthWood at the half.
But in a manner very similar to the soccer semi-final win over Plymouth, Warsaw found the net quickly and convincingly to bury the Panthers.
Fitting, in a second consecutive shutout, a defensive player was responsible for the first goal. Standing over a free kick opportunity well beyond 40 yards from goal, sweeper Breck Jackson lofted a shot into the stiff wind whistling across the Warsaw Soccer Complex. Initially thinking she had a short track on the ball, NorthWood keeper Kira Robinson charged forward from her line, only to have the ball continue sailing into the unattended net.
“I had a feeling that I would make that goal,” said Jackson of her fifth goal of the season, all coming on set pieces. Jackson also banged another free kick off the crossbar just before time. “It’s been so windy, and we actually had the wind with us in the second half, I felt like getting it into the air would help the ball get to the goal. I’ve made some free kick goals, and was hoping this one would get in. A little luck helped it in.”
That shot ushered in a barrage of Warsaw shots at Robinson, which was lacking in the first half. Over the next 10 minutes, Warsaw popped off 10 shots, the last one a feed from Abby Steffensmeier across the face of the goal to a charging Sydney Wiedeman, who atoned for a blown chance in the first half with Warsaw’s second goal. Four minutes later, Anna Grill got her fourth shot on target to hit paydirt, taking a nice driving ball top corner.
In what was a first half of indecision finally broke in Warsaw’s favor.
“I wasn’t really happy with how we came out in the first half,” said Warsaw manager Peter Lucht. “We didn’t make good decisions on the ball. Lifted instead of playing to feet, and that let them think they could be in the match for a good stretch until the first goal. We just have to come out with more intensity and more discipline to keep the ball where it needs to be.”
Warsaw’s defense held NorthWood (7-8-2) to just one shot on target, taken in the 61st minute. NorthWood earned a corner in the first minute of the match, but sent its attempt well wide of the mark. The Panthers wouldn’t get another chance at Warsaw’s net for another 35 minutes.
The Tigers, on the other hand, were limited to just seven shot attempts in the first half, only to explode for 16 in the second half. Robinson was forced to make 15 saves. Kaylee Patton pitched her second shutout in as many sectional matches, making just the one stop.
Warsaw (16-4) wins its ninth overall sectional title and sixth in seven years. Up next for the Tigers is a date with Class 2-A No. 1 Penn (17-0-1), which is also ranked No. 17 in the nation by USA Today. The Kingsmen won the South Bend Riley Sectional with a 10-1 whipping of arch rival Mishawaka. That matchup will be game two Wednesday night at the Goshen Girls Soccer Regional, the first game pitting Goshen and South Bend St. Joseph’s. Game one starts at 5:30 p.m., game two at approximately 7:30 p.m.