SYRACUSE – While Wawasee still has one home game to go, Tuesday’s 4-0 loss to Elkhart Memorial wasn’t the send-off the girls soccer program was hoping for its five seniors.
Memorial used to quick goals in the first half and constant pressure in the second half to tilt the game in its favor. Maria Romo Tenopala found the back of the net in the 10th and 12th minutes on relatively easy finishes. A cross into the box found Tenopala unguarded on the back post for an easy tuck away. Less than two minutes later, Tenopala again had free reign of a loose ball in the box, where she took the pinball from a corner kick and beat Graceanne Kerlin for the two-goal advantage.
Play would settle in from there for about 25 minutes, but also like clockwork, Memorial head coach Dan Knowlton alerted his team that the clock was winding down, and the Lady Chargers suddenly found another gear. Marching right down the field, Memorial’s Stephana Santos sent a cross in from the right corner that Veronica Ocampo used a two-touch and buried her chance without opposition just under two minutes remaining.
The two-minute drill for Memorial was still in effect, as less than 40 seconds later Memorial was again mounting offense, drew a corner kick, and Ocampo whistled a service into the box that defender Ma’elena Perez-Garcia snuck in and kicked in for a back breaker.
“There are things we still don’t understand, and that is very frustrating,” noted Wawasee head coach Tracy Walesa. “We know when teams press at the end of a half, they are going to crash the box, but we don’t mark anyone and they punch in two goals right before the half. Their first two goals came in the same way. We talk about all of this stuff all the time, we practice marking. But we don’t do it in games. I’m at a loss as to why.”
Added Knowlton, “In our games where we either won or tied, we controlled the pace quite a bit. In a case like (Monday) against Northridge, we didn’t take care of the ball and Northridge ran away from us. Tonight we had better possession and were able to get some shots on net. Those first two really helped us out.”
Wawasee opened the game with a pair of shots on target, but went almost 40 minutes after that without an attempt. The Lady Warriors would settle for six shots on goal in the game, all six picked up by Charger keeper Riley Reitz-Lloyd. Memorial would take 11 shots, converting the four, banging two more off posts, and forcing Kerlin to make five saves.
“It’s good to see some resiliency at this point in the year,” Knowlton said. “We are a little banged up with some injuries, and I was just happy to get some girls into the game tonight that we didn’t know if they would be able to go after the past week we’ve had. To come out tonight and play well says a lot about these girls. But what we saw tonight versus what we’ll see with Northridge in the sectional next week, two completely different things.”
Memorial (4-8-3, 1-5-1 NLC) will take on South Bend Trinity Thursday before looking towards its first-round sectional matchup against No. 7-ranked Northridge, which beat Memorial 4-0 Monday night. Wawasee (2-12-1, 0-6 NLC) will host NorthWood Thursday in its final regular season contest before looking towards Angola next week at the DeKalb Sectional.
“Hopefully we can play more on our offensive end,” Walesa said of Thursday’s matchup. “If we can get one to go in, that allows us to play a little more defense with some comfort, and not have to chase all the time. If we can squeak one or two in, obviously that suits us well given NorthWood wants to play that type of low-scoring game.
“We just need to find something to give us a little momentum heading into sectional.”