NAPPANEE – From a statistical standpoint Thursday night, Warsaw was in complete control of its girls soccer matchup with host NorthWood. But the scoreline, just 2-0 in favor of the Tigers, led to a different vantage point for both clubs exiting Wellfield Park.
“Yeah, we did lack a little of the attitude we should have had,” admitted Warsaw head coach Jon Hoover. “We’re happy to get out of here with a win. Missing a player like Corissa in midfield, and being banged up elsewhere, we certainly didn’t look like ourselves at times. But to get a win in the conference any way you can get it, we’ll take it.”
Hoover’s side, which already came into the night with injury issues, had several in white carrying ice packs and holding aching body parts as they exited the turf pitch. Missing midfielder Corissa Koontz for the night with some nagging injuries, and already playing short both Delaney Taylor and Brenna Buhrt for the season with leg injuries, patching the middle was a task in its own without the constant pressure from NorthWood.
Warsaw made well with the play of Gracie Scholl, who showed some excelled play from the wing. Her bending cross in the 57th minute looked destined for a header opportunity, but its path – and possibly aided by a brisk crosswind – went straight over NorthWood keeper Lili Lomeli’s head and into the side netting. The goal put Warsaw up 2-0 and, despite 23 minutes to go, felt like more than enough given NorthWood’s struggles to mount any offense.
The Panthers managed just two chances at goal the entire night, and one was off an Emma Martz free kick in the 69th minute that whistled over the crossbar unscathed. NorthWood’s only other shot came at the 21-minute mark of the first half, a quiet roller by Olivia Craven that was collected by Jasmine Ochoa without harm. Martz did have a chance just before the half go begging well over the crossbar.
“We have to stop playing kick ball,” quipped NorthWood head coach Tom Shields. “The girls were coming in a little nervous knowing how good Warsaw is and playing a top level team. We can pass to feet and make those wall passes, those one-two passes, we can do them all day long and we just weren’t able to connect anything tonight. That’s what we’ll be working on tomorrow night.”
Warsaw got on the board in the first half just four minutes in. An errant pass in the NorthWood defensive third allowed Audrey Grimm to bear down on goal. Lomeli committed to closing the gap, to which Grimm calmly buried her chance for the early lead.
Warsaw would bang eight shots on target in the first half, and 15 overall in the match. Shields admitted to selling out on defending superscorer Abby Steffensmeier in the middle, often double-teaming her. Steffensmeier would still manage six shots on goal, but the bowing Panther defense on Steffensmeier left gaps for Grimm and Scholl to find room to operate.
“Our plan was to play a little more laxed on the outside to try to contain those outside runners, but to keep Abby contained in the middle,” stated Shields. “That was our intent from the start, and I think we did alright.”
Added Hoover, “For us, we are just having some expectations for the entire team. Losing Brenna and Delaney from the get-go, it’s really been next person up for us. Those two players are next level players, but we can’t dwell on it and let it ruin our season. We’re trying to not let injuries and physical things phase us too much. The girls realize that we have a fantastic roster and anyone can step up and fill in for us. We’re confident in our girls that they can play against anyone and not miss a beat.”
The junior varsity match had Warsaw win 4-0. Four different Tigers found paydirt in Makenzie Kohler, Valeria Martinez-Marquez, Bonnie Hampton and Macey Wayne.
Warsaw, which has had a nightmare schedule to start its season in facing four ranked opponents in its first five games, moves to 3-1-1 on the campaign. NorthWood loses its first match of the season and sits at 3-1 overall.