LAKEVILLE — The celebration was reserved, really.
The winning players hugged and congratulated their opponent as their coach watched on, smiling with his hands in his pockets.
“Regional Champions” is what Wheeler’s girls soccer team can call itself now. The Bearcats scored five unanswered goals to upend Boone Grove 5-1 and punch their tickets to a semistate matchup with South Bend St. Joseph on Saturday.
While the accomplishment was worth celebrating with pictures on the fields and laughs between players, Wheeler by no means treated Monday night like the end of a journey. The 20-0 Bearcats wouldn’t want that.
They hope they’re just getting started.
“This is one more step up,” junior forward Lyric Green said after registering a hat trick. “All the way up to state.”
Winning is an expectation on coach Bryan Murray’s squad. Wheeler stormed through the regular season with blowout win after blowout win. Their combined regional output outscored LaVille and Boone Grove 10-1.
There was little in the form of drama at all outside of a 48-hour weather delay when the championship match that supposed to be a Saturday night final was moved to Monday.
“Any time you win a championship, I mean, that’s what you’re talking about right there,” Murray said. “The girls put in work. The conditions were tough on the field. They did what they needed to do.”
Boone Grove, which was once again missing three starters with various injuries, became one of the few teams this season to give Wheeler an initial scare when senior Lauren Casbon put the Wolves up 1-0 in the 14th minute. Freshman Lexi Darnell sparked the score, earning a set piece near the final-third that prompted the goal.
There was no panic from the Wheeler bench. The Bearcats hardly batted an eye.
Six minutes after Boone Grove took the lead, Green broke through with an equalizing score on a play which she was tripped in front of the goal, got up, collected herself and then blasted a ball into the back of the net all in a matter of seconds.
Thirteen minutes after that, Green headed home a game-winner on what she described as a “nearly perfect” cross from fellow junior Claudia Philips from the wing.
“It was just business as usual,” Murray said. “When Lyric Green gets going, it’s kind of tough to stop. She’s an immediate answer, and she has been our immediate answer all year. We can do some things, but she can do it like nobody else.”
Sophomore Riley Garcia extended Wheeler’s lead to 3-1 in the 46th minute, Green picked up her third goal in the 62nd and Philips added a fifth score for good measure in the 75th with the Wolves pushing numbers.
Boone Grove coach Ken Burbridge said there was only so much his team could do against a program like Wheeler. Down a few too many pieces, Burbridge said he was proud of his team’s effort despite the final result.
“We were playing a defensive game,” he said. “We were just — just trying to hold it. We knew it would be a tough match. They were just tough.”
That’s why the players weren’t acting surprised when they gathered their Regional Champion plate.
They expected to win, Green said.
Now onto the next one.
“We’re not done yet,” Green said. “We’re not. We’re not going to stop.”