By Nick Goralczyk
GOSHEN – It was a tale of two halves, but neither ended in favor of the Warsaw soccer team.
The Tigers started their postseason journey Wednesday evening in the semifinals of the IHSAA Class 3-A soccer sectional tournament at Goshen High School. The No. 8 ranked Elkhart Lions had no problem ending Warsaw’s sectional trip with a stellar first half performance being the catalyst to a 3-0 victory.
“The second half was really what I thought this game was going to look like,” admitted Warsaw head coach Ryan Burgher. “I thought it was going to be up and back. We put more effort in, it was 0-0 in the second half. I told the guys, it’s really hard to come back from a three-goal deficit in a sectional game against a really good team.”
Unfortunately Burgher’s team had to sleep in the bed it made after a less-than-impressive first 40 minutes of play.
Elkhart (14-1-1) put on a clinic in the opening half clearly establishing itself as the dominant team. The Lions were literally and figuratively running circles around the Tigers. While Warsaw staved off any real trouble for a while thanks to good play in the net from Miles Burkholder, Elkhart eventually broke through.
It was Daniel Lopez breaking the nil-nil game off a corner kick in the 16th minute to put the Lions up 1-0. Shortly thereafter Eberado Cabrera gave Elkhart a 2-0 advantage (21’). Though the Lions controlled the game up until that point, the goals were still avoidable and that’s what hurt the most.
“I told them at the beginning of the game that Elkhart was a good team and we don’t want to give them anything easy…the first two goals we gave them were effort goals,” explained Burgher. “The first one was on the corner kick, one of our players watched the ball go inside netting when we at least want to see some effort diving for that one.
The second one was off a throw in over one of our player’s heads to a guy that we just didn’t mark up on. So, again effort goals where I think if we just would’ve worked a little bit harder we could’ve done something different for those.”
Warsaw’s chances in the opening were few and far between. The Tigers best chance came as a shot from Noah Wright went off the Elkhart cross bar. Wow that gave some excitement for the Warsaw faithful, it was short-lived.
The Lions moved the ball back down the field and took advantage of a hand ball in the box against Warsaw. The hand ball call was a good one, or a bad one, it kind of depended on what color you were wearing. Either way, it ended up going from bad to worse for the Tigers as German Mendivil knocked in his penalty kick chance to put Elkhart up 3-0 going into the half.
As Burgher stated, the second half was much more of what he wanted. Warsaw came out feisty and looked to get back into the contest. The Tigers controlled the ball and game flow for the first 15 minutes of the half before Elkhart got its footing back, but even then Warsaw remained on the attack for much of the final 20 minutes.
Despite its best efforts, Warsaw could not finish on the plethora of chances it created for itself in the second half. Warsaw’s Roberto Sanchez and Johnathon West made themselves a constant presence around Elkhart’s goal in the second half but could not get one by Lion keeper Bryan Guerrero. The best opportunity for the Tigers came on a penalty kick just outside the 18 from Sanchez but Guerrero was once again there to deny a score.
Warsaw closes its season at 12-5-1. Elkhart moves on to play No. 6 Penn in Saturday’s sectional championship. Penn defeated Goshen 4-1 in the first game Wednesday evening with goals from Braden Murphy, Conner Slabaugh and Noa Ferreira. Goshen’s lone goal came from Edgar Mora. The sectional title game is set for 2 p.m. at Goshen High School.