Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union

Saturday night's sectional championship game proved to be quite a physical contest as seen when Morgan Kaiser (L) of Homestead and Warsaw's Sarah Kratzsch collide while heading the ball.
Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union Saturday night's sectional championship game proved to be quite a physical contest as seen when Morgan Kaiser (L) of Homestead and Warsaw's Sarah Kratzsch collide while heading the ball.

The second-ranked Spartans and the NLC co-champion Tigers ended regulation tied at one goal apiece and carried their one-all tie through two 7-minute overtime periods before two rounds of five-player one-on-one shootouts.

Homestead hoisted the sectional title trophy netting eight of their ten shots to Warsaw’s seven makes, among ten attempts for each side after 94 physical minutes of fast-paced, ultra-physical soccer.

“You never know with these things, and no one likes it, you just have to go win it,” Tiger head coach Jon Hoover said about the hard-fought match ending up in a shootout. “(It’s) not how you want to see a game like this end.”

In the first round of the shoot-out the combatants knotted at four makes apiece. Warsaw’s Zoe Bergan, Corissa Koontz, Sam Aalbue, and Jordan Love found the net. Homestead’s Sydney Couch assured her side’s opportunity for the next quintet to score four goals to the Tigers’ three for the victory in the presence of a full, passionate crowd.

Macy Wayne, Rylee Burns, and Kate Deloe added the final three goals among the Tigers’ second five challengers while the Spartans’ Lucie Parrish nailed the championship-clinching shot.

The Spartans had a cocky air about them visible to even the most casual observer in their two wins advancing them to the title fray. The Warsaw Tigers also entered the match requiring a shake-up; requiring a solid defensive strategy visibly absent from their 4-0 regular season loss to Homestead 37 days earlier.

It was apparent some figurative parental voice looming over the pitch exclaimed, “playtime is over!” for each side in the title fray.

“The longer we can stay at zero-zero,” Hoover mentioned in a brief pre-game discussion, “the better chance we have for things to finish (well)”.

Warsaw implemented an effective defensive strategy straight out of the gate, to Hoover’s pleasure at that point of the game, and added a very early goal when Aalbue score off a beautiful Koontz assist at the fifth minute for a 1-0 lead.

The Tigers took that lead into halftime, but Homestead kept the ball on the Warsaw side of the pitch for most of the second half. It was only a matter of time before the Spartans would score due to this significant pitch position edge. Consequently, and inevitably, the Spartans’ Ryann Parrish evened the score with her goal at the 53rd minute.

The showdown of the night worthy of mention in regulation play was Amelia White, a lock for selection to the U.S. National team in a few weeks, dribbled on a breakaway with her only obstacle in the form of freshman goalkeeper Ellie Schenck.

Schenck, who moved enough forward to create more directional options for White, mad an amazing stop.

“Her breakaways, she came off at the perfect time,” Hoover remarked on Schenck’s regulation and overtime performances. “(S)he was on tonight. It’s great to see her develop that, and develop courage, and confidence. This is probably the most confident we’ve seen her.”

Schenck’s stock also made a bull run at the 68th minute where she made three close-range saves in a matter of seconds.

The Tiger side’s collective execution of their defensive strategy worked well, forcing other Spartans into shots from bad angles.

Jordan Love, a Warsaw defender who played in pain most of the match, has been recently playing at a higher level. The junior defender and her teammates on the back lines left everything on the pitch Saturday night.

“Jordan was just all over the field, and if you’ve seen her play in the last month you’ve just seen her hitting another level every time she steps on the pitch. She closes hard but she is still in control of herself.”

“We talked about being a brick on defense,” Hoover continued. “Everyone’s behind the ball, they’re tight, they’re covering each other.”

No one among either sides’ fans, friends, and family in attendance could deny they witnessed one of the most physical matches played on the Tigers’ pitch. Neither could Coach Hoover.

“It was a lite like seeing a movie like Rocky,” Hoover noted. “Seeing kids get knocked down and getting up from it. They worked hard to look above it and execute…. keeping their heads and responding to adversity.”

Enter Warsaw sophomore Abbi Kohler, who mitigated a few of the more physical Spartans’ attempts to literally push out Tigers among the midfield spots.

Kohler was valuable in balancing physicality and skill when she was called to the pitch. Kohler’s toughness was on display when she collided with Amelia White’s twin sibling, Sophia, and immediately jumped to her feet despite landing underneath the Spartan. White, on the other hand, remained nearly prone on the pitch.

“Nobody’s going to push her. She’s not reckless on the ball, she’s not careless. Abbi is strong on the air, and she’s able to dominate things in the air, and in that middle of the game that’s usually when you run out of gas.

The runner-up Tigers will turn in their gear with a record of 11-7-1 while Homestead (18-0) will advance to the regional semifinal, hosting the number-one ranked Noblesville Millers (16-0-1).

Manchester Girls Soccer Advances To Regional

NORTH?MANCHESTER - Manchester girls soccer defeated Wabash 2-1 Saturday to win Sectional 39 and advance to the regional.

The Lady Squires scored the go-ahead goal with a little over three minutes remaining, and never looked back. Manchester is now 4-9 this season, and will host Blackhawk Christian Wednesday in the regional.