VALPARAISO | When the IHSAA decided to split the state soccer tournament into two classes, Valparaiso coach Danny Jeftich knew that the Vikings would have a chance to host the sectional, even if that meant giving up the regional site.
The Vikings capitalized on that opportunity Wednesday night, knocking off Portage 2-0 at Viking Arena.
Valparaiso will host Chesterton in the sectional title game at 5 p.m. Saturday after the Trojans made short work of Hobart in a 12-0 victory.
"This was our first time hosting the sectional," Jeftich said. "If you can't get excited about that, then you don't have a heartbeat."
The Vikings (9-7-1) outlasted Portage 2-1 at home last week and Wednesday's match looked to be tight again as Valparaiso missed several early chances.
With the teams locked in a scoreless tie, Tommy Billings and Nick Hathoot buried back-to-back goals within three minutes of each other just before halftime to give the Vikings the advantage.
"I told the boys that they can't get frustrated," Jeftich said. "We have to shake it off and that's the mark of a mature team. We have five sophomore starters, and they grew up tonight."
Austin Lee had 10 saves for the Indians (6-10-1), who see their postseason come to an end in just one game after making two consecutive runs to the semistate. Portage will graduate five seniors this year, including star midfielder Donovan Cole.
"I wish we could've had another for him this year," Portage coach Todd Strom said. "It's been an honor and privilege to coach Donovan these years."
The win was especially sweet for Jeftich as he has watched his team overcome injuries this season to find the right mixture of youthful talent and upperclassmen leadership. Both were on display on Wednesday night, and the longtime Valparaiso coach is excited for what the future holds.
"If we play with the heart we did tonight, I like our chances against anyone on Saturday night," Jeftich said.
That opponent will be Chesterton, the team that has knocked Valparaiso out of the postseason in each of the last two seasons. The Trojans started fast against Hobart, scoring five goals in the first 10 minutes and eight in the first half.
Eleven players found the back of the net for the Trojans (13-2-2), with Nick Barango leading Chesterton with two goals. The highlight of the night came when senior keeper Jacob Garmany entered the game on offense late in the second half and scored in the 74th minute to rousing applause from the Chesterton faithful.
"The records mean nothing when it's Valparaiso and Chesterton -- especially for a sectional championship," Chesterton coach James Sensibaugh said. "It'll be worth the price of admission."