PORTAGE| If Wednesday night was the appetizer, next week’s sectional main course between Portage and Valparaiso should fill up even the most rabid soccer fan.
The Indians gave Valparaiso something to think about in advance of next week’s sectional opener as Portage battled the favored Times No. 2 Vikings to a 0-0 overtime draw before falling 4-1 in penalty kicks.
The Indians controlled time of possession from the start of the match and held off the Vikings at every turn, including two key saves in the final 40 seconds of regulation.
“I’m very pleased with match tonight and our boys have reason to hold their heads up,” Portage coach A.J. Monroe said. “We battled hard throughout the night. Penalty kicks, win or lose, is a pretty bad way to end the night.”
Portage’s Cody Simmons (nine saves) delivered two saves in the waning moments of the match that kept the Vikings off the scoreboard. Valparaiso’s Steven Gerry put a shot on the left side of the net that Simmons grabbed. Following a Valparaiso corner kick, Simmons punched away a ball as time expired.
“Cody has done a lot of good things for us this season,” Monroe said. “I thought he played a great match tonight and he didn’t get rattled.”
Andrew Fletcher had five saves for the Vikings and the senior captain knocked away a shot from Matt Ford during the second round of penalty kicks. Portage’s Josh Gonzalez hit the right post on the next attempt and Cory Fox hit the back of the net for Valparaiso’s clinching goal.
“All the nerves were on us, but once I walked up there, I wasn’t nervous at all,” Fox said. “Winning this match was key and something that we needed to do.”
The victory wraps up second place in the Duneland Athletic Conference for the Vikings with a 6-1 conference mark. Portage finished with a 3-4 record, including four overtime matches in the DAC. The two teams will meet again next week at Valparaiso in the first round of sectional play.
“Nothing ever comes easy in the DAC,” Valparaiso coach Danny Jeftich said. “We’ll respect the second place finish in a very tough conference. After Munster on Saturday, it will be time to look ahead.”