ROCHESTER — Tippecanoe Valley did what it had never been able to do in the program’s previous three years Wednesday.
The Vikings finally broke through in their series with Rochester, and they did so in convincing style, on the road and in enemy territory, with a 6-2 Three Rivers Conference win over the host Zebras at the Brent Blacketor Memorial Sports Complex.
“From what I’ve been told from everyone, this is our first win over them. Being relatively new to the program, I understand how important it is to beat your arch-rival, and Rochester has certainly fit that bill for us,” said Valley second-year coach Andrew Luce. “We really came out — for the first time this year — ready to play, and I think that first goal we got set the tone for us.”
Valley notched its first goal just 40 seconds into the contest when sophomore mid Osbaldo Sanchez served up a corner kick to sophomore forward Caleb Petgen, who finished it off with a header to stake the Vikings to an early 1-0 lead.
That advantage evaporated shortly thereafter, however, when Rochester junior attacking mid Wade Shafer beat Valley’s Jonathan Ruiz in a 1 v 1 and launched a long chip into the Viking near upper 90 in the third minute. Unperturbed, Valley answered right bak when freshman forward Christian Ramirez caught Zebra keeper Aaron Cox off guard, lofting his own chip shot over a suddenly backpedaling Cox from around 30 yards out on the wing to give the visitors back the lead, 2-1, midway through the fifth minute. The Vikings never trailed again.
“It was huge because the one thing that we really emphasize is to score first, no matter who it is that we’re playing. And to be able to put one up that fast and then give one up and to answer relatively quickly, really, I think at that point kind of captured the momentum,” said Luce.
Ramirez finished the night with a hat trick to help his team to the lopsided win, scoring in the fifth, the 52nd and the 57th minutes.
Even after a Cox foul of Brandon Montes deep into the 18-yard box paved the way for a Jorge Rosas insurance goal on a penalty kick in the 49th minute, the freshman Zebra keeper continued taking risks leaving the goal line, and Ramirez was able to capitalize on a bad gamble for an empty-netter late in the 52nd minute that gave the Vikings some space at 4-1. Less than five minutes later, Ruiz played a long through ball from midfield to Ramirez on the right wing, and the latter used his speed to convert a near-side goal that pushed the Valley advantage out to a remote 5-1.
“We’ve been on him to put the ball on frame,” said Luce of Ramirez. “He missed a couple open nets at North Miami last week and has a hard time sometimes keeping the ball on frame, but tonight he was spot-on. I think my freshmen are starting to grow up.”
Valley’s lead ballooned out to as many as five goals when Rosas found the back of the net on a long, hard drive from the wing in the 71st minute, putting the game completely out of reach. Noah Wooten scored on a penalty kick with a little over five minutes to go for the hosts, but it was too little, too late as the Vikings celebrated a historic win in Rochester.
It was Valley’s third straight win and pushed the team to 3-5-1 overall and a 3-2 TRC mark with a game at Peru Thursday. Luce credits the veteran leadership of his back line with the turnaround, particularly junior Arturo Dominguez and seniors Rosas and Jacob Jones.
“The leadership that they’ve exhibited has been fantastic, on and off the field. We were 0-5-1, and things could completely crumble at that point. But we were able to hold it together, and we’re on a nice little run now,” he said.