MERRILLVILLE | Chad Rigg admitted to not feeling well prior to Wednesday's Merrillville Regional semifinal match against Munster, but the Lake Central senior forward simply had to grin and bear it.
Rigg recorded a goal and an assist, and the Indians' defense played shutout soccer en route to blanking the Mustangs 3-0 to advance to Saturday's championship against Bishop Noll. The Warriors defeated Andrean 3-1 on penalty kicks after a 1-1 end to regulation in the nightcap.
"Defensively, we worked on first and second defenders all week, and having your second defender close enough that if your first defender gets beat, we'll be able to close quicker," Lake Central coach Jereme Rainwater said. "We spent a lot of time watching the film from when we played (Munster) earlier in the year. We got a chance to watch them at Highland, we made some corrections during practice and I think defensively, we looked very good today."
With Munster facing a 2-0 deficit, the Mustangs (11-4-2) desperately tried to mount a comeback attempt. Rigg had other ideas, as he outmaneuvered Munster's defense and avoided goalkeeper Ethan Flahaven, scoring L.C.'s final goal at the 13:07 mark of the second half to ice the game.
"I was just thinking about my teammates and everything they've been through," Rigg said. "I would sacrifice about anything for these guys and they would do the same for anyone on this team."
With the Indians holding a 1-0 lead after consistent opportunities at the net, Cody Barnes capitalized, unleashing a laser beam on a 25-yard direct kick to give L.C. a 2-0 lead with 28:18 remaining in the game.
In the second game, Noll battled through 94 grueling minutes of soccer before Jesus Martinez's shootout penalty kick thrusted the Warriors into the championship. Coach Armando Garza actually benched Martinez for a while earlier in the game.
"Oh, man. I was so happy," Martinez said. "It was a good feeling. It's really exciting to go this far."
Andrean's Hayden Fogle scored the only goal of the first half when he redirected a Jose Angulo free kick to give the 59ers (11-8) a 1-0 lead 32 minutes into the game.
However, with Bishop Noll (13-4-1) facing a 1-0 deficit with less than six minutes remaining in the game, Gonzalo Romo's free kick trickled past Andrean goalkeeper Mike Croux to force overtime.
"We dominated (the second half)," Garza said. "I brought a little more offense up, and they kept putting pressure on them."