Valpo hangs nine on MC to win title
VALAPARISO — Michigan City’s girls soccer team knew the challenge that outright Duneland Athletic Conference champion Valparariso presented after their 2-1 penalty kick shootout win over Merrillville on Thursday night.
“Whatever happens, happens,” Wolves sophomore forward Olivia Shinn said after the win, nothing the strength and depth of the conference champion.
Led by two goals each for seniors Claire Brogan and Rachel Ross, the Vikings captured the Valparaiso Sectional title on Saturday afternoon in a 9-0 shutout of the upset-minded Wolves where the host side registered 25 shots on target and won 14 corner kicks in the 80 minutes of play.
City hung with the Vikings in the match’s opening minutes, but once the first goal found the back of the net, it seemingly all started to. Kaylee Rongers and Aleah Ferngren each scored goals inside of the game’s first 25 minutes before a 30-minute lightning delay haulted the action.
“We got off to a great start,” Wolves head coach Michael Ramsey said. “We held out for almost 20 minutes against the No. 12 team in the state. We gave up an unfortunate second goal right before the weather delay and that didn’t help.”
31 seconds after the delay and a 10-minute warm-up period both concluded, the Vikings made it 3-0 after Ferngren was taken down inside of the 18-yard box by City defender Huda Achy. Janci Courtney squeaked a right-footed shot past Wolves goalkeeper Aryanna Hartsburg from the penalty spot that was followed just a few minutes later by a strong effort from Shannon Catchur from distance that brought the halftime score to 4-0 Vikings.
With a shortened halftime period because of the prior delay, the Vikings continued their march to the sectional crown with almost all of the possession and thanks to their high pressing, holding the Wolves to no total shot attempts or corner kicks on the afternoon.
The Vikings scored five more times in the final 40 minutes of play, getting scores from Ross twice, including a beautiful left-footed free kick strike from about 25 yards out, Brogan’s pair of goals and another Shannon’s sister Morgan Catchur to put the icing on the cake for the home side.
“Near the end, I gave some seniors some time to play other positions and changed some things around, so I think we probably could’ve avoided the last couple goals,” Ramsey said. “Valpo’s a great team. Their coaches and kids are classy. I wished them good luck in the regional.”
All in all, 2018 was a rough year for the Wolves, who eclipsed their three-win total of a season ago on Thursday, but were bitten by the injury bug often, and lost captain and leading goal-scorer Alex Pomeroy to a severe knee injury that required surgery.
“It was tough with the injuries that hit us once things got going. Losing (Alex) to a season-ending injury brought lots of challenges. But unlike last year, I think we improved near the end and got lots of experience for the sophomores and freshmen who are going to be the core of the team for the next couple of years,” Ramsey said.
“It was great to win a sectional game in penalty kicks. What a great moment. And we got to learn how things work in a sectional championship game.”
With the defeat, the Wolves say goodbye to eight seniors: Johanna Corona, Megan Sitar, Alex Pomeroy, Jael Martin, Sydney Starks, Bailee Laux, Ashlee Orman and Elizabeth McLinden.
“The seniors this year were great. Alex is a great player that will go on to success in college soccer,” Ramsey said. “She’s also a great student and a great kid. Bailee Laux started every game and is also a top student and a great kid to have on the team. They’re both former students of mine at Barker [Middle School]. Jael Martin really came on strong this year to grab a starting spot. No one brought intensity like Jael did.”
Reach Michael Whitlow at email@example.com or (219) 214-4169. Follow him on Twitter @couldbelikemike.