GRIFFITH — Bishop Noll boys soccer coach Armando Garza was hardly concerned with his team’s speed Monday night.
It was slowing down that was the real key.
Garza’s Warriors rocked out of the gates in their sectional match against Hammond as they pushed pace and numbers down the attacking end of the field from the opening whistle. That same attack drew nearly a dozen offside flags, including eight in the first half alone as Garza pleaded with his players to reel the intensity back.
Once Bishop Noll slowed down, the goals came in bunches. The Warriors defeated Hammond, 9-0, and will play Clark on Wednesday in the Griffith Sectional semifinals.
“(We were) pushing, pushing, pushing and it was like, ‘OK, calm down a little bit,’” Garza said. “We were trying to get the goals too quickly, and it was a matter of working it and being patient. I’ve got a lot of speed up top. Sometimes these guys don’t even realize it.”
Garza was right, too. Just ask freshman Jacob Wichlinski.
Wichlinski saw the side judge raise his offside flag three times in about 10 minutes thanks to Hammond’s concerted effort to trap Bishop Noll’s eager strikers cheating towards the goal. His speed was both a blessing and a curse while walking the tight rope that was the Wildcats back line.
Wichlinski found his footing just like the rest of his teammates. He netted his team’s second, third and sixth goals of the evening following what proved to be a game-winning goal by freshman Noah Reid in only 16th minute.
“I’ll tell you what, he’s only a freshman,” Garza said. “For what he brings out as a freshman, he’s doing well. Just outstanding. I’m lucky to have a kid like that who just gulps it in.”
As soon as he aligned his pace with what the defense was giving him, he took off.
“It’s pretty hard being a striker because, you know, you want to score all the time,” Wichlinski said. “But we reacted, relaxed a little bit and we ended up playing smarter and better. It just ended up working.”
Hammond showed signs of life at times in the second half, but only after the game was well out of reach. Bishop Noll goalkeeper Daniel Salazar wasn’t forced to make a single save and defended just one corner.
Meanwhile, Hammond sophomore goalie Michael Mier did all he could to defend his goal but couldn’t fend off the constant onslaught Bishop Noll sent his way. He made five saves as his team fell to 6-7 on the year.
Wildcats coach Daniel Zaragoza didn’t hide his disappointment in how his team’s year ended. but said he was proud of the effort and accomplishments throughout the campaign.
“Obviously this is a whole new season, sectionals,” he said. “I have a good team, but we’re missing some pieces, you know? That’s high school soccer. I’m proud of these guys. They played their asses off, but at the end of the day there’s going to be a winner and there’s going to be a loser.”