By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
Be patient that was the message first-year Bethany Christian High School boys soccer coach Mark Yoder kept stressing to his team during the first half of a regional semifinal Thursday night at Newton Park.
The Bruins got the message by scoring three goals after a scoreless first half in a 3-0 win over the Wheeler Bearcats.
“What I meant by being patient was working the ball,” the coach said. “Possession of the ball is Bethany’s game. We did a better job of that in the second half.”
In the evening’s first game, the Michigan City Marquette Blazers defeated the Boone Grove Wolves 2-1.
Bethany (16-5) faces Marquette (16-3) in the championship Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Bruins are the defending regional champion.
“I’ve been in the program for five years, but it’s still great to see all the work put in the seniors come to fruition,” Yoder said.
The seniors did their job, but it was a sophomore — Nate Nussbaum — that got the ball rolling by being the first Bruin to find the net. He did so at 35:15 of the second half on a long and high shot that was just out of the reach of the Wheeler goalie.
“It’s a spark anytime that first goal goes in,”Yoder said. “There is a lot of emotion in the tournament. That first goal kind of started the run. You have to give Wheeler a lot of credit. There kids play hard to the end.”
Bethany senior Andrew snyder said, “We struggled early on to get the ball on frame so it felt great when the first goal went in.
“Nussbaum had such a strong leg. He’s a great player. He helps us from midfield and up. He has such a strong player. He is fun to watch.”
The second goal was credited to senior Caleb Morris on a deflection of a free kick by Snyder with 29:25 left to play. Some thought Snyder’s free kick had went in but the Bethany coach credited Morris with the goal.
“It’s a goal for the team. That is all that matters,” Snyder said.
The final goal was by senior Josh Stoltzfus when he rebounded his own shot with 11:06 remaining.
Bethany sent in substitutes at will in the first which may have had a hand in wearing down the Bearcats.
“We talked at halftime about moving the ball around,” Yoder said. “Wheeler didn’t use many subs so if we moved the ball around it made ti harder for them to chase.”
The Bruins had a 15-6 advantage in shots on gaol.
“(Senior) Isaac Schertz is our sweeper,” Yoder said. “He is the one that keeps us organized on defense. (Junior) Jesse Loewen, (junior) Joseph Mumaw and (freshman) Clifton Miller are other keys back there.,”
Snyder added, “One of the things we have been working on defense is staying on guys so they can’t turn. When they can’t turn it harder to play the ball up.”
Wheeler had an 8-5 edge in corner kicks.
Sophomore Trent Yoder made four keeper saves for the Bruins in recording his ninth shutout of the season.
That ties him with Seth Kauffman for the single-season record.