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SOUTH BEND — When you've scored 40-plus goals like Wheeler's Lyric Green, you can apparently score when you weren't even fully paying attention.

In the 17th minute of the Class A South Bend St. Joseph Semistate, a Tessa Haldeman pass fell at the feet of Green, who blasted it past the Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian keeper to put the Bearcats up 1-0.

She'd add another goal as Wheeler clinched its first-ever state berth with a 2-0 win at Father Bly Field.

"To be honest, I wasn't even paying really good attention," Green said. "I thought there should've been a handball called and I wondering why it wasn't called and then Tessa played a bouncing ball through. I couldn't get an extra touch so I just had to go for it.

"The fact we're going to state is just crazy to think about. To hear 'Wheeler is going to state' is so crazy, it's surreal."

With such a well-rounded performance, Wheeler coach Bryan Murray had plenty of people to credit.

"Riley O'Brien and Gia Diaz played their best games all year at holding midfielder, they dominated this game," he said. "When you create opportunities and get Lyric into space, she's as dangerous as there is in the state and when she gets going, it energizes everybody. When she's on her game, its gives the rest of the team hope and that's what that first goal did. It was a beautiful ball by Tessa and Lyric is just a finisher, she has 44 goals for a reason.

"In our offensive attack, Claudia (Philips) had a really good game. Lyric finished those goals but it was Claudia attacking that really got us going. She did a great job of seeing, attacking and distributing the ball. Give Blackhawk credit because they wore out the girls as much as any team had all year and they made us work for 80 minutes."

Green added her second tally in the 71st minute off a through ball from Riley Garcia as the junior beat the keeper one-on-one.

"We play a lot of through balls like that, that's what we practice, I just had to put it away," Green said. "Blackhawk had a sweeper on the back so we couldn't play direct balls through because she'd step to them, so it was tough to get around that. What we were able to do is make overlapping runs on the outside which (Katlynn) Mistina and the holding mids do very well. We just did what we always do."

The Bearcats (21-0) recorded their 11th clean sheet of the year as Cheyenne Foor only needed to make two saves.

"The girls did a great job on (Courtney) McKown, who came in with 30 goals," Murray said. "The holding mids did well and the center-backs had their eyes up on her all game and she could not turn and get anything going at all. On film, we saw needed to be able to control that to be successful and that's what we did.

"What we really wanted to make sure we did was play six girls very behind McKown on any punt by the keeper. We wanted to sandwich her and see if (Blackhawk coach Tim Kintz) wanted to move her and he didn't instead keeping her very central and that's what we were hoping. Getting Mistina back after missing the regional with an ankle injury was huge too and that opened up the field for us."

O'Brien among a host of others, stifled the Braves (15-4-2).

"We kept them in front of us and stayed organized. We talked a lot about covering and keeping the ball in front of us and playing based off what they were doing," O'Brien said. "With Gia and I, when one of us steps up, one of us covers. We always know where each other are the whole game and us two are kind of like our own team back there. For us to now to be able to go to state, it's the best feeling. I definitely was crying after the game."

It was win No. 100 for Murray at Wheeler as Evansville Mater Dei awaits in the state finals.

"That's kind of fun, huh? It's enjoyable for this to be No. 100," he said. "The realization we're going to Indianapolis is the biggest thing and the girls have battled all year for this. There's not a coach out there that doesn't wish they could get at least one chance to play for a state title and now we do.

"We're excited and also partly relieved we get to go down to state. It'll be another game of soccer for us and there's not another team I want to roll with other than this group I have right here."


Sports Reporter

CJ grew up shadowing his father, Jim, at various prep events and now follows in his footsteps as a sports reporter at The Times. A Purdue University graduate, his allegiances lie with the Boilermakers, Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds.