HAMMOND | This was just round one, but Bishop Noll will take it.
The Times No. 5 Warriors topped Covenant Christian 3-1 Thursday in a clash of Northwest Indiana Soccer Conference schools slated to meet again in six days.
"I know more about them today," said Noll coach Armando Garza, whose Warriors will face the Knights in next week's sectional. "We needed something like this. Since we played Crown Point, we've been completely down. Certain guys woke up today and hopefully we can get back into some kind of confidence."
Noll (8-5-1, 5-2 NWISC) pressured nearly constantly in the first half but continued to put shots over and around the goal. Alejandro Hernandez finally got a slow-bouncing shot under Knights keeper Tyler Bogaard from point-blank range at 28:03.
"We spend some times when we were just watching instead of challenging some balls. That's what I don't like," Garza said. "I could give them the kind of speech that makes them cry, but they just have to do it."
The Knights (9-8, 2-5) came back about seven minutes later. Jon Van Kley laid a perfect 40-yd free kick over the defense. It was headed by Justin Handtke for a one-touch score. It was only Covenant's second shot on goal.
It was Handtke's 20th goal of the season.
"We tell our guys they have to be looking far post and that one just had a nice little flick on it," Knights coach Andrew Dunham said. "That was just our two captains making a great play."
Alex Avalos broke the tie in the 50th minute. The junior dribbled through the box by two Covenant defenders and sent a shot left and into the nylon to give Noll a 2-1 lead.
The Knights had a chance with about 11 minutes left on a corner kick, but Bishop Noll's Mark Sullivan shouldered away a shot at an open corner of the net to hold the advantage for the Warriors.
Aaron Garza added the final goal at 75:04 for the Warriors, who will finish second in the NWISC.
"Right now, it's about getting ready for sectionals," coach Garza said. "We didn't get the conference (title), forget about it. We blew it."
"Let's not blow the next step in front of us."