VALPARAISO | Putting aside all the emotions that come with Senior Night, Valparaiso forward Kate Johnson had her eyes on a bigger prize Tuesday night.
Johnson scored two goals and added an assist to give the Times No. 1 Vikings a share of their first Duneland Athletic Conference title since 2007 with an 8-0 victory over Portage.
Johnson and her senior teammates were in eighth grade the last time the Vikings were atop the DAC, and Tuesday's victory was the culmination of four years of hard work and near-misses in the conference.
"We just won the conference on Senior Night," Johnson said. "Really, does it get any better than that?"
The Vikings finished the DAC regular season with a 6-1 record and in a three-way tie with Chesterton and Crown Point.
"It doesn't matter to us who we have to share it with, so long as our name is up there," Johnson said. "Those two are both great teams. We all fought hard."
Sara Ozgar got the Vikings (12-3) on the board in the ninth minute and then added another goal in the 53rd minute as Valparaiso scored early and often against the Indians (3-13, 2-5 DAC).
Kaylee Pullins scored two of her three goals in the first half and added two assists as the Vikings carried a 5-0 lead into the break. Johnson scored her second goal of the night midway through the second half before Valparaiso coach Rob Cespesdes emptied his bench.
"This was a good night for our team, especially our seniors to be able to go out like this at home with a DAC title," Cespesdes said. "We talked about Senior Night in practice and told them to enjoy the night before the game, and then it was time to work."
Despite hosting Andrean today in the final home match of the season, Valparaiso recognized its seniors before Tuesday's contest. Each player was introduced to the crowd along with her parents, and Cespesdes started a lineup filled with seniors, leaving junior stars such as Pullins and Andrea Violanti on the bench until later in the match.
"This is just such a strange feeling right now," Johnson said. "I've been on varsity for four years and I've played so many games on this field. I've seen so many old teammates play on this field, and now we've only got one game left."