WARSAW – For the soccer community, Sunday night was the equivalent to what basketball teams feel in March. Selection Sunday had the IHSAA draw its tournament paths for both the boys and girls soccer sectionals, the first step to Indianapolis in October for a shot at a state championship.
Of the area teams, only one – the Warsaw girls – play a game within 30 miles of its school. Warsaw will host the Class 3-A sectional, drawing Fort Wayne South Side in the first game in its defense of the sectional title. The Lady Tigers have had a remarkable season with the possibility of a couple more highlights this week. Warsaw will host No. 20 Fort Wayne Carroll Tuesday in its regular season home finale, then take aim at No. 7 Northridge Thursday for a chance at the Northern Lakes Conference championship.
Warsaw opened last year’s tournament with a 12-0 win over South Side en route to the sectional championship and an appearance in the regional finals. Coach Jon Hoover, whose club is currently 10-2-1 and No. 8 in the latest state poll, is ready to defend the crown.
“While we would prefer to play one game to get to the final, we are excited to get started and will prepare for South Side,” Hoover said Sunday night. “Regardless of who we play, we want to keep our rhythm in game preparation. A Homestead/Warsaw sectional final would be exciting, but we have work to do to make that a reality. I’m glad the draw is finished so we can put that on the shelf for a few days and prepare for Carroll and Northridge.”
Homestead, which drew the bye game against Fort Wayne Wayne, is currently No. 5 in the state poll. Huntington North will get the Warsaw-South Side winner in the other semi-final. One of Warsaw’s two losses this season was at Homestead, 2-0, on Aug. 30.
Another area girls sectional defender, NorthWood, will have to win just two games to defend its title in the Class 2-A bracket at DeKalb. The No. 10 Panthers will take on West Noble in the sectional semis, trying to win only its second sectional championship, the first coming last year at Lakeland. The Lakers and host DeKalb meet in game one, with Wawasee and Angola squaring off in game two.
Wrapping up the local girls tourney paths, Lakeland Christian got a favorable draw in meeting Elkhart Christian in game two of the Class 1-A Westview Sectional. ECA is winless this year, and should LCA triumph, it would meet either Lakewood Park or Central Noble in the semis. LCA beat both teams by 5-0 scores during the regular season. The bye game has Westview and Bethany Christian playing in the second semi-final.
On the boys side, all of the area teams will have to hit the road for different counties in quest for championships.
The No. 12 Warsaw Tigers will face Fort Wayne Wayne in the first game of the Class 3-A Homestead Sectional. Warsaw, which won its sectional last season, is 5-0-3 going back to Sept. 4, and is alive for an NLC title with one game to go at No. 5 Northridge on Thursday, which the Raiders sit atop the conference table heading into the final week. Warsaw has two losses this season, both coming at the Fort Wayne Carroll tournament where it lost to Northridge (1-0) and Homestead (2-0).
Fort Wayne North and Huntington North meet in game two of the sectional, with host No. 17 Homestead and Fort Wayne South Side playing in the bye game. The championship has been announced by Homestead to be played at Warsaw on Saturday, Oct. 6.
Both NorthWood and Wawasee will compete in the Class 2-A Angola Sectional. Garrett comes in as the defending sectional champions, stunning Wawasee in the finals of the sectional last year in Syracuse. Garrett will get No. 20 West Noble in the opener, with Lakeland and NorthWood drawing game two. Wawasee gets the bye game and the host Hornets in the semi-final, a position Warrior head coach Jordan Sharp was thrilled to see.
“We are very excited for the draw,” started Sharp just moments after the bracket was released on the selection show. “The chance to get a bye as well as not having to play both NorthWood and West Noble will be very exciting. I like our chances and feel very good about our sectional draw.
“Yes, Angola has the home field advantage, but I’ve been very encouraged by how our guys have been playing,” continued Sharp. “We’ve been playing tough against state-ranked teams. All things considered I think we’re heading into the postseason on our best foot.”
LCA head coach Dan Miller and his Cougars will have their hands full at the Class 1-A Argos Sectional. LCA drew No. 19 Argos, which is the seven-time defending sectional champion. The Dragons knocked off LCA, 4-2, in late August and have the pedigree. Miller, however, has a team that’s won four of its last five matches and scored 26 goals in that stretch.
“It’s a difficult draw to play Argos in the first game, but I’m excited at the opportunity,” said Miller, in his first year on the LCA sideline. “They’re used to winning sectional titles, but we feel that we have a good chance to knock them off. We have been gearing our whole season for this post season run. Our defense has improved, and we’ve been able to more clearly define the roles of each player.”
LCA is 4-0 with a plus-15 goals for versus the remainder of the Argos sectional field. North Miami gets the LCA-Argos winner in the semis. On the other half of the Argos bracket, Winamac faces Oregon-Davis and Culver battles Caston to make up the seven-teamer.
Tippecanoe Valley will jump into its third IHSAA state tournament looking for its first postseason win. The potential is there as it takes on sectional host Maconaquah in the Class 2-A tourney’s game one. The Braves beat the Vikings, 3-2, Aug. 30. Two ranked teams call Sectional 22 home, with No. 7 Fort Wayne Concordia taking on Columbia City in game two, and No. 14 Manchester battling Peru in the bye game.