PORTAGE | Chesterton struggled to get going against Portage on Thursday night in the opening round of IHSAA sectional play, but once the Trojans found the back of the net, they started rolling.
Kaylee Lindahl scored back-to-back goals in the final five minutes of the first half and then Bridget Brendza added two of her three goals in the opening moments of the second half as the Trojans dispatched the host Indians 10-1 at the Class 2A Portage Sectional.
Valparaiso knocked off Hobart 5-0 in the other semifinal, setting up a rematch of an early- season Duneland Athletic Conference contest which the Vikings won 4-0.
“A lot has changed since then for us and we’ll be ready to go on Saturday,” Brendza said. “It was important for us to win this first game and advance. We had some nervousness at the beginning and came out slow. That won’t happen to us on Saturday.”
While the Trojans didn’t look like world-beaters in the first 20 minutes against Portage, Chesterton coach Dave Galloway wasn’t worried once his squad started to get used to the faster playing surface at The Warpath.
“We adjusted and we got used to the speed,” Galloway said. “It’s definitely different than what we’re used to.”
Nicki Monahan capped off her high school career with Portage’s lone goal in the second half to cut the deficit to 7-1. Tia Peters scored in the 65th minute and then Nicole Kollar added Chesterton’s final two goals to put a cap on the scoring.
“We have a rule that we try not to hit double digits in scoring,” Galloway said. “Portage is a conference opponent and we have all the respect in the world for them. Kollar’s last goal was almost an accident.”
Once Chesterton started to find a groove, Galloway emptied his bench and got plenty of sectional experience for his younger players. Lindahl responded with two goals and fellow freshman Katie Green added her first postseason goal in the first half.
“We’re always looking to the future and these freshmen have done a great job looking up and following the seniors,” Galloway said. “When you step onto the field, you’re a soccer player. I don’t care what year you are, I want you to contribute.”
Much like the Trojans, Valparaiso struggled to get its offense going during a driving rainstorm. Grace Withrow scored the first of her two goals in the 20th minute and the Vikings added four more throughout the game, including a strike from senior Kaylee Pullins midway through the second half. Pullins went to the ground with an injury in the early moments of the game but was able to return to the field in the second half.
The Vikings defeated Chesterton 4-1 in last season’s sectional championship, the first time the rivals have met in the postseason since soccer split into two classes.
“We’re definitely pumped up to have another shot at Valparaiso,” Brendza said. “All I can say is that we’ll be ready.”