By Mike Deak
WARSAW – Warsaw kept knocking on the door. Javier Enciso eventually opened it.
Enciso’s smart run to the back post on a cross resulted in Warsaw’s first goal of the season, and none too soon, as the Tigers leveled with visiting South Bend St. Joe in an eventual 1-1 draw Thursday night in the county seat.
Enciso found himself in the perfect position to take a crossing pass from Nathan Dailey and forwarded in the equalizer in the 70th minute. His offering banged off the post to beat keeper Kyle Tupper to the punch.
“Javier just decided to be aggressive on that run,” said Warsaw head coach Ryan Burgher. “He had a guy on him and he just beat his man and got to the ball first, then got it in. We’ve talked to the guys about being aggressive and just going at it.”
The goal offset St. Joe’s opportune strike in the 60th minute. A shot was deflected in the Warsaw 18, only to find its way to St. Joe’s striker, Ryan Larkins, who had no trouble burying the chance past a helpless Miles Burkholder tending net for the Tigers.
Otherwise, in a relatively uneventful first half, both teams each had one other major chance in the second 40.
In the 54th minute, Warsaw narrowly fell short of striking first on a free kick. On a deception setup, Alejandro Murillo played his runup off his right foot and sent a laser rocketing off the inside of the far post, but the carom skipped to the left, away from the goal mouth and was cleared to safety.
St. Joe nearly escaped Tiger Town with two points in hand in the waning moments. A desperation corner kick with less than a minute remaining had the Indians cross back post, and a last gasp half volley from Juan Gonzalez Hernandez was blocked by none other than Enciso as time ran out.
Warsaw finished with just five shots on frame, Tupper grabbing three of them. St. Joe produced five as well, Burkholder also pulling in three of the tries.
The Tigers, which graduated over a dozen regulars from its roster a year ago, still have 11 seniors on the varsity list. That doesn’t always translate into instant success, as the sophomore Enciso’s tally has been it for Warsaw (0-1-1) trying to rebuild.
“When you graduate 15 or 16 guys from a program, it’s going to be tough to find experience,” Burgher said. “We’re starting several sophomores and a freshman at center mid. To get them to varsity pace and varsity speed, it’s going to take some time. We knew that coming in. It’s been work, but we are playing good soccer. Our finishing right now is below average, and it’s showing with just one goal in three games (including a scrimmage). But as a coach, it’s my job to put the players in the best position to succeed.”
Warsaw came away with a 1-0 result over St. Joe in the night’s JV opener.