RENSSELAER | It was a historic win for the Hanover Central boys soccer program in the opener the Class A Rensselaer Sectional on Monday.
The Wildcats registered their first IHSAA tournament win in a 5-1 victory over Hebron in convincing fashion.
"I guarantee you, a lot of the boys had some butterflies," Hanover coach Dan Grunewald said, "and we just won the Porter County Conference for the first time in school history."
After a slow start, Hanover (11-5) tallied two goals in a just more than 10 minutes of play to take a 2-0 lead and command of the game in the process.
"We came out a little sluggish, a little flat-footed," Grunewald said. "I don't know if it was the 4:30 p.m. game. It didn't seem like a sectional game, and the atmosphere wasn't there."
Sophomore Dyllan Bakker broke the scoreless tie when he found the net at 19:36 mark. Rudy Grill kept the pressure on with an unassisted goal at the 28:52 mark to give the Wildcats the two-goal advantage.
"We were just playing hard and keeping pressure on the defense," said Grill, who finished with a goal and an assist.
Hanover added a three-goal spurt in the final 5:13 of the play in the first half to put the game out of reach. Freshman Alec Nirtaut scored unassisted to start the surge before classmate Eric Einsphar knocked in a rebound off a direct kick by Grill to put the Wildcats on top 4-0.
Nirtaut found the net again with a rocket from the left side for 5-0 bulge at the 39:28 mark.
"We were passing around the ball and playing as a team," Nirtaut said.
Hebron (5-7-2) averted a shutout when Alex Shrum scored on a penalty kick at the 28:35 mark of the second half.
Senior goalkeeper Tyler Ilovici made 12 saves for Hanover.
"He's one of the best around, and he's a big reason we're having the season we are," Grunewald said.
The Wildcats will try to record their second sectional win when they battle the host Bombers on Wednesday. Covenant Christian faces Wheeler at 4:30 p.m. today.
"We loosened up a little bit, but I'd like to see them come out with more intensity for a sectional game than they did," Grunewald said.