CROWN POINT | Times No. 1 Crown Point can check one off the list.
The Bulldogs clinched a Duneland Athletic Conference championship with a 5-0 win over Michigan City on Wednesday night. Sole ownership of the conference title was a priority for the 'Dogs, who came a game short of Valparaiso last season and had no intention of doing that again.
"I think (a conference title) is what's driven them since as soon as that final whistle blew against Lake Central in regionals last year. I think that just lit a fire in our kids," coach Mike Bazin said. "Great to finally seal that up."
Crown Point has bigger goals from here, though. The No. 4 team in the state coaches poll sees the DAC crown as just the beginning.
"If only they measured things on your regular season success," Bazin said. "What we're going to be measured by is what's going to come after this."
C.P. (14-0-1, 7-0 DAC) got its first goal at 22:01 when a corner kick deflected off a City player found Erik Eksten, who pushed it by keeper Sam Mallon. It took seven more shots to get another score, but Stojan Krsteski finally broke through on a long pass over the top from Bay Kurtz at 50:35.
"(Mallon) played a phenomenal game. Hats off to him," Bazin said. "He kept us frustrated and I was really impressed with his play."
Michigan City (3-12, 1-6) kept the game close almost exclusively because of the play of Mallon. The junior was pelted all night and finished with 12 saves. Mallon also came out and stopped several plays before they became shots.
"We played very smart soccer with very few let-downs," coach Brian Meyers said. "We just played a really intelligent game against the No. 4 team in the state."
Kurtz took a free kick from just outside the box barely two minutes later that ricocheted of the wall. Freshman Brad Kurtz took that rebound and rocketed a shot into the net. Carmelo Morales added another five minutes later to make it 4-0.
Bay Kurtz scored at 61:17, dribbling through half a dozen Wolves and beating Mallon to the bottom left corner.
"I just saw it and I attacked it," he said. "I thought, you know, why not take a risk and go for it? I went for it and it happened."
Kurtz committed to play Division-I soccer for Liberty University in Virginia on Sunday. Kurtz chose Liberty over Virginia and Notre Dame. He said it was just the right fit.
"It's a private Christian school, so it'll be a good base for me," Kurtz said. "Soccer-wise, I think it can be a good building block for the next level."