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SOUTH BEND — Lake Central senior Daena Schuh was in tears after the Indians’ 1-0 regional semifinal loss to Penn. So were coach Shawn Thomas and most of the rest of the team.

L.C. describes itself as “a family.” Schuh, who will play college soccer at Valparaiso University, skipped her last year of club soccer to join the high school team.

“There’s been times in the past when players come back (from club soccer) and they let you know how good they are and their talent shows. But not everybody just comes right in and is part of the team, part of the family,” a misty-eyed Thomas said. “She was right away. I’m just really proud of her.”

Schuh said she never doubted her decision to play for the Indians. The team environment offered a stark-contrast to the individual, recruiting-focused club scene.

“We’re crying because we worked so hard this season to even be here and we had so much faith that we could beat a two-time state champion,” she said. “We knew going into it that we had more heart than them and we had the fight in us. We just got unlucky today. We’re upset because we played for each other but the outcome just wasn’t in our favor.”

Both sides had chances in the first half. It wasn’t until 39:52 that Maya Lacognato scored for Penn.

The IUPUI-bound senior beat three defenders in the box and pushed a left-footed shot past Lake Central keeper Tatum Damron. The Kingsmen would hold that advantage through the second half.

Damron did her best to stop the bleeding, making 11 saves. The sophomore came to Lake Central as a defender but moved to goalie.

“Tatum’s another one, she’s special. She’s just an athlete and she’s so coachable,” Thomas said. “It was just an impressive thing for her to do in the last two seasons (switching positions) and I think it’s only going to go up from here.”

Schuh and the rest of the seniors will be gone next year, but she said the future of Lake Central soccer is bright. Several freshmen and sophomores were key contributors.

“They already know how they play with each other,” Schuh said. “With a great coach, like coach Shawn (Thomas), he’ll help them along. They’ll maybe reach the state finals some day.”

Thomas said her impact on those underclassmen will be a lasting one.

“(Schuh’s) got the kind of character to go with her talent,” Thomas said. “When you’ve got that kind of character at a young age, you can lead people and that’s what she did.”

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