MISHAWAKA — The clock wound down, chants of "L-C! L-C!" echoed from the bleachers and Times No. 3 Lake Central flooded off its bench.
After a down 2018 season that saw the end of the Indians' 15-year sectional title streak, LC is back. Rob MacNeill scored two goals as the Indians beat Northridge 2-1 Saturday in the Class 3A Penn Regional final.
“This one is sweet for a lot of different reasons,” LC coach Jereme Rainwater said. “High school soccer is up and down; there's a lot of cyclical stuff that goes on there. We had a moment of a little bit of a lull over the last year or so, and my guys have fought. They've always tried to play the Lake Central way.”
It's Lake Central's first semistate appearance since 2015, and outsiders didn't expect it. The Indians have just six seniors, were left out of the final ISCA Class 3A poll and ranked just No. 4 in The Times Top 10 entering the postseason.
MacNeill said he felt LC was overlooked this season but that the team continued to believe in itself — and that's what mattered.
The senior midfielder had to react quickly on both his finishes. First, he pounced on a mis-kick by Northridge's goalkeeper to tap in from close range one minute into the second half. After Northridge's Carter Stoltzfus tied the match on a similar mistake by LC, MacNeill gathered a precise pass from Emilio Zambrano and chipped the keeper to retake the lead.
Rainwater said MacNeill's performance was as good as any in his four-year career.
“Soccer is a split-second,” MacNeill said. “It's about being calm in situations when other players aren't. I just leveled my head and put it away.”
The first half saw few legitimate scoring opportunities but featured plenty of end-to-end action nonetheless. Cameron Chappell forced Lake Central goalkeeper Adrian Orciuch into a diving save to his right, although the Indians largely corralled the Raiders' speedster.
Chappell leads Northridge (17-3-2) with 15 goals and terrorized Chesterton in Saturday's regional semifinal match. But Tre Adams stuck with Chappell all game and kept him from breaking loose.
After postmatch handshakes, the Indians (11-5-3) circled up for the customary trophy hoisting they've waited four years for. They'll face Noblesville on Oct. 26 at Kokomo or South Bend St. Joseph, but for now they'll enjoy their regional title.
“It means everything to all of us, not just me,” MacNeill said. “It really shows the bond we put together with the younger players, and I hope that that continues. Through those younger (classes), they've got a great team going forward. That's all you can ask for: to leave a legacy here.”