Girls soccer: Valpo, CP to meet in third straight regional final
By Brandon Vickrey Post-Tribune correspondent October 16, 2013 11:30PM
Valparaiso's Ashely Thomas, right, and Lake Central's Teresa Baranowski battle for the ball Wednesday evening October 16, 2013 at Viking Soccer Arena during the first round of the Valparaiso Regional. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 18, 2013 7:55AM
VALPARAISO — When Lake Central topped Valparaiso in the regular season, Vikings forward Ashley Thomas was sidelined with an injury. On Wednesday night, Thomas made her presence felt by breaking a scoreless tie in the 54th minute of the second half to propel Valparaiso to a 2-0 victory over Lake Central in the regional semifinal.
Grace Withrow netted the Vikings’ insurance goal by grazing one off a Lake Central player in the 63rd minute.
According to Valparaiso coach Rob Cespedes, his team has gotten progressively better over the course of the season. The Vikings have a young starting lineup that includes three freshmen and three sophomores.
Thomas’ early goal was an encore performance after she posted a hat trick in the sectional championship game against Chesterton.
“She always plays extremely tough, even if she’s got an injury,” Cespedes said. “She comes out and puts it all out on the field.”
Lake Central keeper Lindsay Kusbel made several diving stops in the first half and finished the night with 13 saves.
In the opener, Crown Point rolled to a 9-0 win over Hammond. The Bulldogs jumped in front when Jenna Arnold, who finished with a hat trick, scored in the third minute.
In the sixth minute, Kara Ford fired one into the net on a feed from Maddie McConnell to double the Crown Point lead. Arnold added her second goal of the match in the 25th minute. The Bulldogs had expanded the margin to five by halftime as Jenna McCarroll and Delaney Benich notched goals.
Despite the favorable score, Crown Point coach Chris Mikrut was not pleased with his team’s performance.
“It was kind of lackluster in the first half,” he said. “I told the girls that the goals weren’t as important as the play. If we play like we did in the first half on Saturday, we’ll be out of this tournament by halftime.”
Mariam Martinez made 12 saves for the Wildcats (6-7) in the school’s first regional appearance.
Seven Hammond starters were playing soccer for the first time this season.
“We were really excited to make it this far,” Wildcats coach Mayra Rodriquez-Alvarez said. “I’m very proud of them. It was an honor to come to regionals.”
The Vikings and Bulldogs will face off in the regional championship for the third consecutive year. Crown Point won both prior regional finals.
“I think it is right for that to be the regional championship game,” Cespedes said. “It feels right.”