Addy Joiner receives a lot of credit for the Chesterton girls soccer team’s success, and deservedly so.
After a remarkable sophomore campaign in which she totaled 27 goals and 13 assists, the explosive forward has showed no signs of slowing down with 22 goals and seven assists this year. The junior led the No. 2 Trojans to a three-way tie for the Duneland Athletic Conference title — alongside No. 3 Crown Point and No. 1 Valparaiso — and has clearly established herself as one of the top players in the Region.
However, Chesterton coach Ben Forgey will remind anyone willing to listen that his team doesn’t start and end with its star player.
“Yeah, she’s dynamic. Yeah, she scores goals. Yeah, she does everything,” Forgey said. “If we want her to play in the middle, she can. If we want her to play out wide, she can. We can put her in the back. We can put her anywhere. She’s just that good. But I’d be remiss if I also didn’t mention Ashlee Bakaitis.”
Bakaitis, a senior forward, has nine goals and a team-high 11 assists this season. Even though her stats aren’t as eye-popping as Joiner’s, Forgey thinks her impact goes beyond the box score. He commended the senior for sacrificing her individual accolades to help the team, while also remaining a steady leader.
“She doesn’t have the same goal numbers this year because she’s been playing sometimes at right back and sometimes on one of our wings, but sometimes she’s been the difference in games, too,” Forgey said. “Those two (Bakaitis and Joiner), in most games we play, they’re a level above the competition.”
Chesterton ended the regular season on a seven-game winning streak and will open up Class 3A sectional play Tuesday against Merrillville. Outside of Joiner and Bakaitis, Forgey expects his entire team to be ready, including sophomore goalkeeper Carley Balas.
“We have maybe the best goalie in the area,” Forgey said. “I don’t know who would debate that, and I would be open to that debate. But I just don’t know one that’s better. It looks like she’s been back there forever. The defenders trust her, and she trusts our backline.”
Wheeler prepares for another deep run
The Bearcats have played in back-to-back Class A state championship games, but this postseason will be different. No. 4 Wheeler has moved up to Class 2A and will be competing without 2018 Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year Lyric Green, who has continued her career at Bethany College in Kansas.
Green netted a staggering 42 goals during her senior campaign last year and totaled 118 throughout her entire prep career. But in her absence, the Bearcats have shown that they are still one of the top programs in the Region.
Senior forward Riley Garcia has emerged as Wheeler’s new offensive leader with a team-high 25 goals and 12 assists, while sophomore forward Anna Capellari has notched 15 goals and a team-high 13 assists.
The Bearcats went undefeated in the Greater South Shore Conference and will began sectional play Thursday at home against Hammond, who has lost six consecutive games.
Boone Grove looks to continue big turnaround
In the preseason, Wolves coach Ken Burbridge didn’t hold back his hopes for his squad.
“If the team stays healthy, I expect Boone Grove to have a great chance to win the PCC Conference, good chance to win sectionals, and if our starting freshmen improve throughout the season, have a chance to play for the state championship,” Burbridge wrote in an email to The Times sports staff.
So far, his predictions have held true. The No. 6 Wolves went undefeated in the Porter County Conference to claim the conference title and ended the regular season on a four-game winning streak.
Last year, Boone Grove lost to Kouts in the Class A sectional semifinals and finished three games below .500. This season, the Wolves have pulled off an impressive turnaround, evidenced by its 12-2 record.
Junior forward Lexi Darnell leads the way with a team-high 27 goals and eight assists. If she and her teammates hope to take the next step in Burbridge’s plan, it will start with a sectional win over Oregon-Davis on Thursday.