By Mike Deak
WINONA LAKE – Wawasee girls soccer head coach Luis Camargo wondered if his team was destined for more frustration. A perfectly executed play ended all the worry.
A McKenzie Long finish off a corner kick with nine minutes left on the clock was exactly what Camargo and Wawasee needed in a 2-1 win at Lakeland Christian Academy Thursday evening.
“We deserved to win this,” a jovial Camargo said, relishing his first career win as head coach. “We had two draws and really felt like we let one go at West Noble. We were really hungry to turn in a win, and McKenzie did that for us. All of the girls showed they came here to win today, really proud for this team.”
Wawasee had begun its season with a cup full of heartbreak, jousting to a pair of scoreless ties with Lakeland and Westview and blowing a 3-1 lead at West Noble, one where it carried the two-goal lead into the final 10 minutes.
That feeling of ‘not again’ hit as its one-goal lead was erased when a aimless free kick from Avery Hobbs rolled unattended into the Wawasee defensive third. As Wawasee’s defense stood in a virtual puddle of mud, LCA’s Jessi Calizo sped into the shockingly open penalty area and did what she has done for two-plus years, burying the goal to knot the score at 1-1.
Where in recent years the equalizer would turn into an avalanche against Wawasee, the team reversed its fortunes when Amari Peete sent the corner kick wayward and Long collected and corrected past Finley Hobbs high side for a stunning go-ahead goal.
“You have to give Wawasee credit on converting that corner kick,” said LCA head coach Nat Raber. “They put the ball where it should have gone and got the shot. Really nice looking play on their part.”
After a scoreless first half that saw the teams combine for just five shots on target, the second 40 opened up quite a bit. Wawasee nearly struck in the 48th when Jenny Camarena rifled a shot just over the crossbar. About nine minutes later, Rileigh Atwood put Wawasee on the board after creating some space on the ball and ripped a chance that Finley didn’t see through her defense as it hit the twine.
Wawasee as a whole contained LCA as the Cougars were held to just four shots on target and five shots overall. Calizo, who tallied her 50th career goal against the Warriors, is sitting on just four after five matches this season and managed just two shots in the game Thursday. Camargo knew keeping the junior marked was essential.
“We knew Calizo was a great player and we had to make sure we knew where she was all the time,” Camargo said. “We were missing one of our key defenders, so we moved Allie Haberman to center back knowing (Calizo) would be playing through there. She got a goal, but we kept her from scoring more like she is capable of doing.”
Wawasee (1-4-2) tallied 11 shots on target and used three saves from Lillian Beer in net. The win broke a streak of 14 winless matches (0-12-2) dating to a 2-0 win over Whitko last September.
“We’re just focused on getting better,” Raber stated, whose club sits at 3-2 overall. “We have a lot of work to do, but really, I was pretty pleased with how we played. I saw a lot of good individual things and we had some nice combinations working the ball around the field. Yeah, we lost, but that wasn’t an issue for us tonight.”