For as potent as the Wheeler offense has been in the Class A Girls Soccer State Tournament, the defense has been even better.
The Bearcats (17-1-2) have allowed just one goal in four postseason games to clinch the school’s first regional title.
Wheeler takes on state No. 3 Fort Wayne Luers at 11 a.m. in Saturday’s Class A Argos Semistate. With a win, the Bearcats would advance to the championship at 6 p.m.
“Across the board, the defense has been great,” Wheeler coach Bryan Murray said. “If you look at any sport, if you play good defense, you’re always in games.”
Seniors Christie Hansen and Marissa Sosa, junior Emily Jackson and sophomore Mady Crowder, along with freshman keeper Kadie Spoor have combined to allow 12 goals in 20 matches. The Bearcats have recorded 11 shutouts this year.
“We keep our shape really well so people can’t break us down,” Jackson said. “If we get into trouble, there are a couple of people to get the ball to. We’re pretty sound.”
Jackson and Hansen occupy the middle of the defense while Sosa and Crowder are the outside defenders. Murray called Crowder the best man-on-man defender he’s ever had.
“It’s a defense that can focus on their strengths,” he said. “They are a cohesive back five. They don’t get rattled much, and if they make a mistake, they are the first ones to correct it.”
This is the second year the defenders have all played together, and Crowder said that has been apparent in their play this season.
“We’re definitely a lot more in sync this year,” she said. “We know a lot better what each person is going to do. We have our own little group back there. We’re pretty proud of ourselves for doing as well as we have done this year.”
Wheeler has not lost a match since suffering its only defeat of the season against Griffith on Sept. 4. One of the keys to the success has been how the confidence the offense has in the defense and likewise the defense in the offense.
“It’s one of those things,” he said. “Our defense trusts that our offense is going to make something happen in 80 minutes, and our offense trusts that the defense will hold a lead. They firmly believe that they will. It’s been a special year.”