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Riley Garcia, Wheeler, soccer (GSO notes)

Senior Riley Garcia, left, leads Wheeler with 29 goals this season.

The Valparaiso girls soccer team knew it would be in for a tough matchup with Chesterton, and the Hobart Class 3A sectional championship lived up to the hype.

After going scoreless in regulation and overtime, the Indiana State Coaches Association's No. 13-ranked Vikings took home their second straight sectional title by defeating the Trojans 4-3 on penalty kicks. The narrow victory also avenged a 4-0 loss to No. 16 Chesterton during the regular season and marked the 19th sectional crown in school history.

Valparaiso coach Rob Cespedes said his team had several opportunities to score, and despite coming up empty in 94 minutes of play, he commended his players for staying focused and keeping the Trojans off of the board to force the game into a shootout.

“It was a whole team effort,” Cespedes said. “You had to go through a couple of obstacles to get even close to our goal. For our offense to apply that initial defensive pressure and then moving into the midfield and then getting to our defense and then finally getting to our goalkeeper, that’s quite a bit for a team to be able to do and then actually score a goal against us.”

The Vikings have recorded nine shutouts this season and haven’t allowed a goal in the postseason. Valparaiso will look to continue its strong defensive play Saturday in the South Bend Adams regional semifinals against No. 7 Penn, who it defeated 2-1 during the regular season.

“We just hope to continue with our own style of play and our format and move forward,” Cespedes said. “I think we have a really good opportunity with (Penn). We played them earlier in the season and we had a positive result there. We just have to make sure all of our bases are covered.”

Munster is slated to play No. 6 South Bend St. Joseph on the other side of the regional bracket. The Mustangs defeated EC Central 10-0 in the EC Central sectional championship to advance, but they will face a much tougher opponent on Saturday.

The Indians are on an eight-game winning streak and have recorded five consecutive shutouts. Juniors Georgia Place and Natalie Moore lead the team with 21 goals and 20 goals, respectively.

If Munster and Valparaiso are both able to extend their seasons, they’ll meet in the regional championship Saturday night.

New class, no problem for Wheeler

After back-to-back trips to the Class A state title game, the class multiplier forced Wheeler to move up to Class 2A, but its expectations haven’t changed.

The state No. 5 Bearcats claimed their third straight sectional title with a 2-0 victory over Griffith at home and haven’t lost a game all season. Wheeler coach Bryan Murray said many of his returning players, led by senior Riley Garcia, have felt underestimated. But despite their reclassification, she’s helped the Bearcats prove that their program is one to be reckoned with — no matter who is on the field.

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“She is definitely who people pay attention to, and she’s had success all year, in every game we’ve played,” Murray said. “Even (on Monday), she’s out there after our practice for an hour and a half with her dad working on free kicks and PKs, stuff that we already work on anyway. The girl is just very determined, and she’s an all-state player for a reason.”

Garcia has recorded a team-high 29 goals this season, including one in the sectional title game against the Panthers.

In order to keep their season alive, Murray said Gracia and the rest of his athletes just have to trust their principles against DeKalb in the regional semifinals. Because of the success they’ve experienced over the past two seasons, he is confident that no situation will surprise them.

“There’s nothing that we’re going to see that we’ve not seen before,” Murray said. “And our girls do a very good job of trying to dictate play on their terms. It doesn’t mean that they’re always successful, but they’re definitely confident in what we do, and they’ll stay the course for 80 minutes.”

Boone Grove, Covenant Christian square off

With the game on the line, Boone Grove junior Alivia Peters scored her eighth goal of the year and the biggest goal of the season to lift the state No. 15 Wolves to a 2-1 overtime victory over No. 12 Andrean in the Boone Grove Class A sectional championship.

Now, Boone Grove will face off against Covenant Christian in the LaVille regional semifinals. The Knights defeated Washington Township 5-0 at home to clinch their first sectional title in school history, and freshman Skylar Bos led the way with two goals.

Throughout her first prep campaign, Covenant Christian coach Aaron de Jager said Bos has shown that she isn’t afraid of the moment. The freshman has recorded a team-high 27 goals and team-high 13 assists, while also seeing time as a goalie.

“I don’t have 1,000 girls to pull from,” Jager said. “I have 110, so to be able to have someone with that kind of talent, it only adds to a great team. If you’re looking at her stats, you’re also looking at Carly James, Hannah Frump, Gabbi Zeilenga and even her sister, Ireland Bos. Yeah, Skylar’s doing great, but you’re also looking at everyone else.”

Jager added that his team’s balance is a big reason why it was able to advance to regional play, and he looks forward to going toe-to-toe with another Region program. The Wolves and Knights competed in the regular season, with Boone Grove winning 4-1, and Jager hopes that his team can come away with a different outcome now that its fully healthy.

“Carly James was out with a concussion the first time, and she’s one of my top scorers (17 goals),” Jager said. “That’s a key piece to our team, and with her back, it’s anybody’s game. It’s going to come down to who wants it the most, and my girls are super hungry for this.”

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Lake County Sports Reporter

James Boyd is the Lake County prep sports reporter for The Times. He is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a proud native of Romeoville, Illinois. Before anything else, his main goal in life is to spread love and light.