Grace Withrow just does what needs to be done.
"I just want to do what I need to do to help the team be successful," the Valparaiso junior said. "This team, we're so much more than a soccer team."
Withrow scored two of the Vikings' three goals in a pair of regional matches with Lake Central and Crown Point. The one against C.P. turned out to be the goal that would leave Valpo as the last Class 2A team standing in the region.
"Grace plays her heart out. She is very quick and strong on the ball. She has wonderful instincts and is a good model for the other girls because of her example," Vikings coach Rob Cespedes said. "She has a quality shot on goal from close or far range, which is expected to be key in tight games. She knows her responsibilities and takes them seriously and proudly.
At 12-6-2, Valparaiso's record has a few more losses and a few fewer wins than a usual regional champion. But that's exactly why the Vikings have had the success they've had in the postseason.
"We're young and we're not afraid to try new things. We never hung our heads. We knew we had nothing to lose," Withrow said. "There's no point in dwelling on the past. We won this regional and we weren't even close in the D.A.C. It felt good."
Camaraderie has also been a theme.
"I think the girls have had a great time this season being with each other," Cespedes said. "We have many talented upperclassmen and underclassmen that are playing together for the first time who just clicked during the season and they are starting to see the results of their togetherness."
Saturday's battle promises to be a defensive one. Valparaiso has allowed only one goal during the playoffs, while Homestead hasn't given up any. The Vikings will play the Spartans in the South Bend St. Joseph semistate semifinal Saturday. The teams battled to a nil-nil tie early in the regular season. Valpo is still an underdog, though, and isn't expected to advance to the state championship. The Vikings are getting used to that role.
"It doesn't bother us (to be the underdog). It motivates us," Withrow said. "The fact that we weren't supposed to win made winning even better. I'm super proud to be where we are. We weren't supposed to be here but we are. But that doesn't mean we're done. I'm not satisfied."