LAKEVILLE | Andrean faced a tougher road than was expected Thursday night.
After 40 minutes of scoreless soccer, Eric Guetzloff headed in a Mike Metlov pass early in the second half to give the 59ers a hard-fought 1-0 win over Wheeler.
“Whoever scored first was really going to be in the driver’s seat,” Andrean coach Pete Reist said. “We scored early (in the second half) and then we get the penalty shot and we missed it. If we hit that penalty shot, the game’s probably over then and maybe the dam breaks.”
That penalty shot was taken by Mike Gore after Wheeler was called for a handball inside the box. A dive by Bearcats keeper Patrick Berg prevented the goal. Berg had five total saves and kept his team in the match.
“He always steps up in the big games,” Wheeler coach Dave Bock said of his senior keeper. “He’s had really good games in the big games when we’ve needed him to. He was mistake-free (Thursday). He can hang his hat on a great game to end his career here, because he really did a great job.”
Both teams played nearly flawless soccer in a much more physical rematch of Andrean’s 4-0 regular-season win over the Bearcats. Bock said Wheeler was just unable to compete with the size of the 59ers on a lot of 50-50 balls, including the play that lead to the game’s lone goal.
"We were worried about their size on set pieces,” Bock said. “It’s unlucky to lose a game like that but we had our chances to score and we just didn’t finish.”
Wheeler had 13 shots on the night – three more than Andrean – but put only three on goal, compared to six by the 59ers. Chris Orozco made three saves for Andrean.
The win was important for Reist, but it was also nice to watch a former player lead a valiant effort.
“Give Wheeler a lot of credit. I’m so proud of Dave,” Reist said. “Dave played for me years ago here at Andrean, and he’s gone to Wheeler and he’s just put together a great program in the past couple of years.”
Andrean will face Mishawaka Marian in Saturday’s championship.
The Knights defeated Boone Grove 4-1 in Thursday’s nightcap. Nick Azevedo scored for the Wolves, and Nathan Miller had five saves in the loss.