PLYMOUTH – It’s been a sore subject with NorthWood’s girls soccer program this season. And it’ll likely be a sore one heading into the offseason.
For the eighth time this season, NorthWood found itself in a 1-0 contest. But as 13 Panther seniors walked off the pitch for the final time, they were on the wrong side of the score at the worst time, losing to Culver Academy in the morning semi-final of the Plymouth Girls Soccer Regional.
A second-chance goal from Dana Rodgers in the 72nd minute was all the scoring the match would see. An Academy cross into the penalty area made its way through to Rodgers, who hit a backside half volley for the only tally.
NorthWood was 3-4 in those 1-0 games coming into the day, but it was actually a 5-1 result that stuck in NorthWood’s craw from the season. That came at the hands of the Academy in late September, which was NorthWood’s worst loss of the season per scoring margin. That changed Saturday, as neither team looked entirely comfortable in the crisp morning air and cold dew on their boots.
A scoreless first half had the teams combine for just eight total shots, NorthWood with just two of them. A Neely Trenshaw one-timer off a NorthWood corner early on just missed, and a Sam Hazen rocket just before the half for the Academy were the only quality chances in the game’s first 40 minutes.
“We talked at halftime that there was a good chance the goal that would be scored wouldn’t be flashy or the prettiest thing,” NorthWood head coach Phil Ummel said. “We hoped we would be the ones to get it, but that happens sometimes. As long as it crosses the line, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is. Hats off to Culver, they kept attacking and got their opportunity to go in.”
That pace changed in the second half for the Academy, which continued to pressure the NorthWood net and create havoc in the penalty area. That havoc finally netted the game winner.
Kira Robinson had to parry a shot over the crossbar to keep the game scoreless in the 53rd minute and was tested twice more with low skidding shots. Robinson was goaded into making 15 saves off 17 Culver shots, again reflecting the quality of competitor she has been in net for the Panthers.
NorthWood nearly took the lead in the 67th minute when a long clearance from Robinson was advanced forward and through to a streaking Emma Martz, who had a touch on the ball and bearing down on goal. Academy goalkeeper Sophie Michi came out to challenge and made the save of the day, stuffing Martz’s attempted touch point blank. That would be the final chance NorthWood would get.
“The first half I thought we connected a little better, but just lacked that good look at goal,” Ummel said. “The second half, Culver came out with a little more intensity and we just couldn’t find that connection between our forwards and midfielders.”
The end of the road for the most decorated senior class in NorthWood program history saw the Panthers finish its campaign 9-7-3. The 13 seniors won the only two sectional titles in team history and have now set the bar for what’s to come.
“This is a very special group with the 13 seniors,” Ummel said. “We’ve had a lot of success in recent years, but hadn’t won a sectional title. This senior group got two. For them to get that, it’s very special. To watch them come together as a group on the field and off the field, that has been enjoyable to watch and be a part of as a coach.”
Game two wasn’t nearly as close, as South Bend St. Joe ran away from Griffith 7-0. Natalie Moore had two goals, and the Indians also had single tallies from Lizzy Raster, Sarah Hiestand, Georgia Place, Caroline Edmonds and Bella Troester. Culver Academy (12-5) and St. Joe (14-5-2) will play at 7 p.m. for the regional championship.