PLYMOUTH — Just when Cinderella started dancing, somebody cut the music.
The Wawasee boys soccer team had its sights set on pulling a big upset in Saturday’s IHSAA Class 2-A Sectional 7 Tournament at Plymouth’s Kindt Field. The Warriors fell behind early but put on a fierce rally before running out of time. The host Rockies held on for a 3-2 victory, the program’s second-ever sectional title and first since 2007.
Plymouth, who had defeated Wawasee last Thursday 5-0 in the regular season finale for both teams, boasted a 3-0 lead at the half. Things were all but sewn up for the Rockies. They kept the ball at Wawasee’s end of the field for the majority of the first half and were able to create many more opportunities. While the Warriors appeared to be the more physical team, Plymouth was showing it had the advantage in skill.
With 31:49 remaining in the game, Wawasee caught a break by getting a penalty kick attempt. Senior Carter Jones took the try and nailed it, just as he had against NorthWood in Wednesday’s semifinal. Players from Wawasee’s bench shouted, “It’s not over yet!” following Jones’ goal. Oh, how right they were.
Wawasee and Plymouth battled for the next 16 minutes with the score locked at 3-1 in favor of the Rockies. With the clock on Plymouth’s side, Wawasee needed another big moment to extend its hopes of an upset. That moment came at the feet of Chris Pena.
The freshman made his mark on the program in Wednesday’s semifinal as he scored the go-ahead goal with 32 seconds remaining to lift his team past NorthWood. Pena found himself with another opportunity in Saturday’s championship game and did not waste it. The speedy freshman blew by defenders and rifled a ball past Plymouth’s keeper to make the score 3-2 with 14:08 left to play.
Wawasee had flipped the script on Plymouth and was constantly on the attack. The Warriors had the Rockies on their heels. They just needed one more big moment.
Jones thought he created that moment with some crafty footwork inside Plymouth’s 18. The senior made a pass to Pena who tried to head in an equalizing goal but Plymouth keeper Austin Read was in the right place to make the save.
Jones again had an opportunity with just over a minute to spare in the contest. Jones attempted to score on a free kick from 23 yards out but Read again was there to deny the Warriors. Wawasee was out of time.
“We were definitely the better team in the second half,” stated Wawasee head coach Jordan Sharp. “It’s too bad we couldn’t have netted a third goal. It would’ve been fun to take this into overtime or PK’s. Our guys just really gelled that last half.
“We were competing in the first half, but Plymouth got that goal and you could see our guys start playing with nerves. We got some yellow cards and we weren’t playing as a team. We weren’t in the right frame of mind. We talked about that at half time and told them that they needed to play as a team. everyone was focused in that second half and playing for the team.”
Wawasee, which finishes its season at 5-11-2, gave it a valiant effort but spotting Plymouth a 3-0 lead was just too much to overcome. The Rockies improve to 14-3 on the season. The Rockies got their goals from Jesus Jimenez (7′), Doug Overmeyer (18′) and Gustavo Castaneda (30′).
Wawasee graduates a large and important group of seniors, Sharp’s first four-year class.
“It always kills me to see our seniors go. It’s horrible and hard. It’s my first class I’ve had for four years. My babies are graduating,” Sharp said with a smile. “It will be hard to see them go. But, they raised the bar for this next group. These younger guys can see now what is obtainable for us. A 13-3 team (Plymouth) is someone that we can compete with. We got much better this season in how we play on the field. Hopefully the underclassmen can see that and bring that belief into next season.”