CROWN POINT | The only question left after Thursday’s semifinal round of the Class 2A Crown Point Sectional was: which team wears all red for Saturday’s championship?
Kankakee Valley and Crown Point, who played 79 minutes of scoreless soccer before the Bulldogs scored with 28 seconds remaining two weeks ago, will meet in the final Saturday after convincing wins Thursday.
For the record, Kankakee will wear all red in the 10 a.m. Saturday final of the Class 2A Crown Point Sectional; as the home team by virtue of the bracket, Crown Point will don white.
After Kankakee Valley dispatched Merrillville 5-0, the Bulldogs fended off a furious effort by Lowell to beat the Red Devils 6-1.
“I think we played well in the first 10 minutes, got lost for about 20 and then had a good 10 to end the half,” Crown Point coach Chris Mikrut said. “We’ve got to finish more goals. We can’t let one-on-ones and good shots slip by. We’re not going to advance that way.”
Lauren O’Keefe scored the first goal for the Bulldogs 1:45 into the game on a pass from Jenny Pudlo, and she scored the final goal for C.P. (11-5-1) as well.
“We knew what we had to get done, and we got it done successfully,” O’Keefe said. “We’re just taking it one game at a time, but we knew we had to play well right away.”
Lowell’s freshman keeper, Rebecca Koon, made 22 saves against a relentless C.P. attack, and she had her team within striking distance at halftime with a 1-0 deficit.
Crown Point freshman Delaney Benich scored in the 44th minute out of the break with what ended up as the game-winner.
After Lowell (5-7-3) cut the lead in half on Hayley Farmer’s goal, things went from bad to worse for the Devils.
Thirteen seconds after Farmer’s goal, Crown Point’s Pudlo scored a backbreaking goal off the kickoff. Less than 90 seconds passed before Jenna Arnold put the Bulldogs up 4-1.
“We’ve had so many injuries it’s been hard just to keep a team on the field,” Lowell coach Kim Gavelek said. “They stepped up tonight but started wearing down at the end.”
A few possessions later Koon left the game with an injury, though she returned after about five minutes of game action.
“We had really well-possessed balls but had problems finishing in the first half,” O’Keefe said. “In the second we got better at finishing.
“It feels really good to be in the final, but it’s also expected. We have big shoes to fill.”
The Kougars (14-1-1) are ready to avenge their lone loss.
“There wasn’t much of a difference between us and Lowell the first time,” K.V. coach Alex Conklin said. “They’re the favorite, but we’ve put in a few new wrinkles.”
Haleigh Wenglarz scored two of K.V.’s five goals.
“Working together as a team was the key tonight because we didn’t do that all the time in our last few games,” Wenglarz said. “We came in and our attitude was good, but we had to win this before we could think about Crown Point.”
Natalie Lotz had the first goal and a later assist for K.V. Reilly Dattilo and Hannah Wilder had the others.
“We were outmatched,” said Merrillville coach Ben Daniel, whose 11 starters included eight sophomores. “Kankakee Valley has got skill and talent, and they’re going to give Crown Point a run for their money.”