By GREG KEIM
THE GOSHEN NEWS
It’s really no surprise that the championship of the Class 2A high school girls soccer sectional at Elkhart Memorial will be an all-NLC matchup considering that four of the five teams are members of the league and three of them were in the semifinals on Thursday evening.
The Goshen Redskins got two goals from sophomore forward Jelitza Palomino in a 3-1 win over the non-NLC team, the Elkhart Blue Blazers in the first semifinal. Senior midfielder Brianne O’Dell netted a pair of goals for the Northridge Raiders in a 3-0 victory over Concord in the nightcap.
Goshen and Northridge will square off the sectional finale Saturday at 2 p.m.
“This sectional is almost like an NLC tournament,” Raider coach Bill Redinger said. “Goshen did not play like they are capable of tonight. We know we are going to get a better game from them on Saturday. We played one of our better all-around games tonight. It should be a good one on Saturday. It doesn’t matter that they didn’t have a good one tonight. Anytime you lineup for a game with Goshen and Northridge on the jerseys you are going to get each team’s best.”
Central got off to a quick start and took a 1-0 lead on the Redskins at the 37:06 mark of the opening half when senior midfielder Madeleine Thomas lofted a high arching soft over the Goshen goalie.
“That was a beautiful shot,” Central coach Chris Malott said. “Madeleine has had a great season. She put in a lot of time in the offseason working on improving her game.”
The Redskins normally play a possession game, but Central took them out of that on Thursday.
“We did not play our style of soccer,” Goshen coach Dan Graber said. “Central put a lot of pressure on us. Their kick-ball style of play was effective against us.
“Another thing is we are not used to playing at 5 o’clock. We got out of school early to get here, but it still didn’t seem like we had enough time to warm up. We were just not ready to play.
“That was a great shot by the Central player they scored on.”
The score stayed 1-0 until Palomino found the net with 6:11 remaining in the half. Senior midfielder Martha Castillo was credited with the assist.
“Martha made that whole play possible,” Graber said. “I don’t know how many players she dribbled by to get the ball to Jelitza. Good things happen when Martha creates like that.”
The 1-1 score held up until Palomino scored her second goal with an assist from freshman forward Aylissa Trosper with 6:58 left to play. Junior midfielder Joleen Miller added the third goal with :06 remaining assisted by Trosper.
“Trosper and (freshman defender) Ashton Ellis have been difference makers for us this season,” Graber said. “Trosper did a good job of distributing the ball late in the game. Ellis did a nice job shadowing (Central senior forward) Brittany Vanderhoek. Central’s offense runs around Brittany and Ashton kept her from getting the ball.”
Goshen led 9-5 in shots on goal and Central had a 4-1 edge in corner kicks. Sophomore Alyssa Hershberger made four keeper saves for the Redskins. Junior Rebekka Ponce started in goal for the Blue Blazers before she left due to an injury. She was replaced by classmate Johana Montes-Madrigal. The Central duo combined on six saves.
Concord had the same problems solving the Northridge defense as other opponents have had. The shutout by the Raiders was the team’s 13th in the last 14 contests.
“We have only allowed one goal in our last 14 games,” Redinger said.
Anchoring the Raider defense are senior Kara Kershner, senior Mikaela Zook, senior Evelynn Cover and junior Brennah Tadeo.
“You are looking at a group that have been together for three years,” Redinger said. “Mikaela is a four-year varsity player and the rest have been on the varsity three years.
“Part of the reason for our success on defense is we do a lot of work in front of them.”
Senior goalie Julina Skow made two keeper saves for the Raiders.
“Northridge is a very good team. They are a very classy team,” Concord coach Todd Hesselbart said. “They are well organized all over the field and they pass the ball great. They also move well off the ball.
“I was a little humbled by the way we played. This was one of our better games of the season.”
The game was scoreless until O’Dell found the net assisted by freshman Brey Baltazar at 28:16 of the first half. The Raiders scored at 33:17 of the second half when senior forward Lauren Blyly headed a pass by Baltazar into the net. O’Dell added the final score at 25:24 with an assist from Tadeo.
“Baltazar does good work for us at midfield,” Redinger said.
Blyly’s goal is going to cost the coach.
“I offer the team ice cream for a goal in the first five minutes of either half,” the coach said. “I want the team to get off to a fast start. We try to get things moving. Since this was a sectional game I extended that to 10 minutes so I guess I own them some ice cream.”
The Raiders had advantages of 15-2 in shots on gaol and 4-0 in corner kicks. Senior Jenny Miller and junior Kiley Harmon combined on 12 keeper saves for Concord.