Oct. 28—TOPEKA — In its last two matches, Westview has entered the game as the underdog.
Two wins later, and the Warriors are now playing on the state's biggest stage for high school soccer.
No. 16 Westview (16-5) gets a chance to pull off a third-straight upset when they play No. 3 Providence (15-3-3) for a Class 1A boys soccer state title Friday night at Carroll Stadium on the campus of IUPUI in Indianapolis. The game is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. following the Class 2A boys game between West Lafayette and Brebeuf Jesuit, which starts at 6 p.m.
"We're the underdog again, and that's a good place to be," Westview coach Jamie Martin said. "That's actually where I wanted to be all year long; I wanted to be off the radar for this such occasion. I didn't know that we could get here ... I knew we had a lot of talent coming back and a lot of good, young talent. And to be the underdog in these types of games is the best place to be, as far as I'm concerned."
Westview made it to this point by winning dramatic regional and semistate championship game. Down 3-1 with 15 minutes to go against No. 9 Illiana Christian, the Warriors rallied to tie the game at the end of regulation and force overtime. Both teams scored in OT, sending the game to penalty kicks, where Westview won 3-0 to secure a regional championship.
Then, the Warriors needed extra time again in the semistate to knock off top-ranked Park Tudor. Sophomore Carson Brown's shot with 2:26 remaining in the second OT session propelled Westview to a 2-1 win and their first state championship game appearance.
"To be honest, I don't think it's hit me that we're actually going, and I don't think it will until we actually get down there and get on the field," said senior goalkeeper Alex Yoder of making it to the state title game. "It's just a great feeling; kind of speechless at the moment."
Offensively, Westview has been led by sophomore Teague Misner, who ranks ninth in the state with 31 goals scored this season. Senior Gramm Egli has been the primary set-up man for the offense, as he ranked eighth in the state with 22 assists.
Misner mentioned how he's had to adjust his game a little bit to find success this season.
"The teams around our area, their defenses have dropped back and they don't play higher up, so for a forward, that eliminates runs in behind them," Misner said. "So, I've had to drop back more, protect the ball and play combinations off of that."
Along with Misner (71 points) and Egli (38 points), Westview possess depth on the offensive side of the ball. Five other players have at least 16 or more points, highlighted by Jadon Yoder's 17 goals and five assists (39 points).
"A lot of these guys are just really good soccer players, and I would love to take credit that I've made them this good, but I haven't," Martin said. "It's them. A couple of these guys — seven, eight, nine of them — play soccer year-round, and we get to reap the benefits of them playing year-round. And then you throw some good athletes in on top of that, and you've got a good team."
Defensively, Alex Yoder has stepped up when his team has needed him the most this year. He made 12 saves in the win over Park Tudor and stopped two PK shots against Illiana Christian that helped get the Warriors to this point. For the season, Yoder has made 110 saves and posted nine shutouts.
"I feel like I've become just more mentally better and being better in knowing the situation and what the right thing is to do," said Alex Yoder on where he's progressed the most in 2021.
The Pioneers have been here before. They are the reigning Class 1A state champions after they beat Argos, 2-1, in the 2020 season finale. It was the first state title in program history after finishing runner-up in 2013 and 2016.
Providence's offense is led by senior Billy Hoke, who's tallied 18 goals and 16 assists this season. Sophomore Quentin Hesse wasn't too far behind Hoke with 14 goals, while junior Luke Jordan also contributed nine goals and five assists. In the net, sophomore Charlie Scott has been stout, surrendering just 19 goals allowed, making 83 saves and posting nine shutouts.
Because of their success these past two seasons, Providence will be moving up to Class 2A next year due to the IHSAA's success factor rate.
"I've gotten a couple scouting reports and (assistant coach Ehren Misner) watched their (semistate) game on Saturday, so we have an idea of what they do," said Martin of Providence. "They're a lot like us: they like to get the ball out wide and they like to play that big ball across the side. ... Regardless, they go up to 2A next year, and I wouldn't mind being in the way and not letting them go with two titles."
Having already beaten two teams ranked higher than them in the past two games, Misner is confident that his team can leave Indianapolis with the state championship trophy.
"If we just play our game and give it everything we've got and just not give up, I think we can do it," Misner said. "(Beating Park Tudor) let us know that every team is beatable and it's not impossible for us. We definitely have a chance. We just have to show up and make it happen."
Alex Yoder echoed similar sentiments as Misner.
"Just how coach says: to have heart and persistence and just play our game and be mentally tough," said the senior goalkeeper on what it's going to take to win Friday. "Just go through the game and let them have to play our game."
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.