WARSAW — Indiana Soccer Coaches Association Class 2A No. 4 Mishawaka Marian trumped 3A No. 11 Warsaw, 1-0 in a battle of ranked unbeatens Saturday.
The Tigers had plenty of opportunities in the closing minutes but couldn’t quite find the back of the net against the Knights’ stout backfield.
“As you can tell, they’ve been playing eight, nine guys back. When they play like this, it’s hard to score. We tried to find ways, but we couldn’t put it in the back of the net. That’s tough,” explained Warsaw head coach Frank Courtois.
“That’s what those teams are looking for — pack it, one goal wins the match.”
Trailing 1-0 following the game’s lone goal in the 57th minute, the hosts poured on the pressure and had several good looks, including a free kick in the 70th minute, a Blake Burns shot on goal with just over eight minutes remaining and Ethan Grill’s free kick on target, which Marian keeper Hunter Renner deftly saved just before the final buzzer sounded in Warsaw.
The Tigers finished with six shots on goal to just three by Marian, but Renner saved them all. The Knights got the only goal they would need with 23 minutes left to play when Jonny Wang found Francisco Tavarez on a free kick, and Tavarez finished it off with a header.
“Free kicks, we know that we have to get our tallest guys — guys that can finish — it’s just a problem getting the services in,” said Marian coach Ben Householter of the goal. “We’ve worked on set pieces; we know that we might struggle sometimes playing only one guy up top, so set pieces are important things, and Pancho just got in and finished it off, so Francisco did a great job there.”
“Our players just turned their back to it. I was yelling for Blake to get to the 2 v 1, and they already played it. You don’t have a chance to recover from that because we weren’t paying attention,” Courtois said.
The Knights continued packing it in in the backfield and managed the game clock savvily against an increasingly frustrated Tigers side as the clock ticked down in Warsaw. In four games this season, Marian hasn’t allowed a single goal by opponents.
“Ending last season we knew that we definitely had to shore up both offense and defense, and I thought ‘Let’s shore up the defense and then we can always maybe get some offense out of it,’” Householter explained. “We’ve definitely had some seniors step up with some leadership in the back, but our midfield has been doing a good job of getting that second line of defense so we’re making it difficult for them to get through two lines of defense.”
Warsaw slips to 5-1, while Marian improves to 4-0. The Tigers travel to Northern Lakes Conference foe Concord Wednesday.
“Marian, they always have a good team. They always come to play very aggressively. They had a good side,” said Courtois.