Austin Hough: COLUMN: Westview boys soccer making history with run to state title game

·5 min read

Oct. 28—The Westview boys soccer team will be playing for a state championship Friday night.

I didn't anticipate typing that sentence back in August, let me tell you.

Sure, the Warriors were expected to be a strong team. They had plenty of returning players from a sectional-winning team, highlighted by sophomore Teague Misner and seniors Jadon Yoder, Gramm Egli and Alex Yoder. Another sectional title was the expectation this season, but anything beyond that was uncertain.

THE HEART OF A CHAMPION

The sectional almost didn't happen, as their rival, Bethany Christian, gave Westview all they could handle — and then some. It took a late goal from Misner to end the scoreless tie and advance the Warriors to regionals.

An inferior Caston team was no challenge for Westview in the regional semifinal, and an eye-popping 11-0 final score followed. But the true test of this Warriors team's character, grit and resolve has come in the last two matches they've played.

Down 3-1 in the regional final to Illiana Christian, Westview could've easily packed it in and had their season come to an end. They didn't, though, and scored twice in the final 15 minutes of regulation to force overtime. They'd then take the lead in the first OT session, only to surrender it in the second one. Once again, the Warriors could've easily folded going into penalty kicks, but they instead rose to the challenge and did something you rarely see — pitch a shutout in PKs. Westview won the game and the regional title in the process.

Then came last weekend, where the 16th-ranked Warriors faced a tall task in No. 1 Park Tudor in the semistate game. The Panthers went up 1-0 at halftime, and on paper, nobody would've faulted Westview if this had been where the road ended. This team doesn't know the word "quit," though, and Warriors rallied to tie the game and send it to overtime. In the extra sessions, Westview outplayed Park Tudor, capping it off with a goal from sophomore Carson Brown to send his team to the state's biggest stage for high school soccer.

"That was my dream moment, basically," said Brown after the game.

A dream moment indeed for a team making history not just at Westview High School, but for this area as a whole.

HISTORY-MAKING RUN

What the Warriors are doing by just making it this far is unprecedented in some ways. They are the first soccer program, girls or boys, from the Northeast Corner Conference to make it to the state finals since the IHSAA adopted the sport officially in 1994. By default, that also makes them the first LaGrange County team to do it as well (fellow LaGrange County schools Lakeland and Prairie Heights are also in the NECC).

Even when you compare it to neighboring counties, Westview is joining some rarified air. Only two Elkhart County boys soccer teams — Elkhart Central in 2006 and Goshen in 2014 — have played for a state title. Central lost to Carmel in a one-class system, while the then-Redskins brought home the big trophy with a 1-0 win over Brebeuf Jesuit for the 2A crown (in a two-class system at the time). No Elkhart County girls soccer team has made it to the state final.

Kosciusko County has had even less success, as the 2012 Warsaw boys team is the only one from that county to make it to a state title game. The Tigers fell short against Columbus North that year in the 2A contest.

Saint Joseph County is where the most success has come from, as Penn, South Bend St. Joseph and Mishawaka Marian have all won state championships in both boys and girls soccer. Those schools have been soccer factories over the years, with success in the sport almost a given.

That's why a win by Westview Friday would be huge for the soccer community in this area. Teams from this part of the state rarely make it this far in the tournament, and especially ones of Westview's size. Getting a chance to come back with the 1A state title trophy on Friday night would be special.

MORE THAN BASKETBALL

It also would be big for a school like Westview in another regard, too. The outside perspective of the school's athletic department is mostly defined by one sport: boys basketball. To become the first non-basketball team to win a state championship at Westview would mean a lot to a school that has seen tremendous success in boys sports in recent years.

"This shows that it's not just basketball at this school," senior goalkeeper Alex Yoder said. "Our sports, overall, are just good because we had the girls (soccer team make the regional final). And boys tennis, for the second time in three seasons, they went down to state. So, even for just the fall sports overall, it's just been great seasons."

It's been an exciting and unpredictable ride for this Westview team so far. They will once again be the underdog Friday when they play the defending Class 1A state champions in Providence. It's a role the Warriors are comfortable in — and one they've thrived in so far this tournament. It'll be fun to see if Cinderella's foot can fit into that glass slipper one more time for Westview Friday in Indianapolis.

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.

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