The Journal Gazette
Saturday, October 16, 2021 8:00 pm

Soccer regional finals

Dwenger boys, Leo girls win soccer regional titles

DYLAN SINN | The Journal Gazette

OSSIAN – Canterbury boys soccer came into Saturday's regional final against Bishop Dwenger with 16 regional championships in program history, while the Saints had only one, in 2000.

Now, Dwenger has two.

Saints sophomore Thomas Stureman netted a goal in the fifth minute of extra time with his team a man down and Class 2A No. 9 Dwenger upset the top-ranked team in the class, winning 2-1 to advance to the semistate, where the Saints will take on No. 2 West Lafayette – 4-1 winners over West Noble on Saturday – with a chance to reach the state title game for the first time in program history.

"It feels great, there's no other feeling like it," Saints coach Carlos Cruz said of winning the title. "It's very difficult to put into words right now. There are a lot of emotions that are going through. All I can say is heart. These boys played with so much heart, so much passion. They decided they ... wanted this and they got it done."

In the late afternoon game, Class 2A No. 10 Leo girls soccer made it a clean sweep for northeast Indiana with a 1-0 regional championship win over 15th-ranked Hamilton Heights behind a 47th-minute goal from sophomore Ella Graves. The Lions (19-0-2) remained unbeaten and won their first regional crown since 2015, setting up a semistate matchup with No. 5 Mishawaka Marian, which beat West Lafayette 3-1 on Saturday.

Like Dwenger, Leo has never won a semistate title.

The Saints (13-4-3) led 1-0 for a large chunk of their game after an 18th-minute Luca Cruz goal on a free kick from just outside the box to the lower right corner. 

The game began to turn against Dwenger in the 60th minute when Canterbury's John Shoppell took a free kick from 35 yards out. Saints goalkeeper David Anderson let the ball go by, appearing to think it would be over the crossbar, but it found the back of the net to knot the score.

Dwenger played a man down from the 62nd minute on because midfielder George Getty received two yellow cards in quick succession after an interaction with the referee. 

The Saints survived the 10-on-11 game until extra time. Then, they earned a corner kick and called a set play, with a short kick going to Lucas Ciocca, who touched it across to Stureman near the edge of the box. Stureman bent the right-footed shot to the weak side for the winner.

"I just saw the open space in the middle of the field," said Stureman, who raced downfield, waving his arms at Dwenger's fans, after scoring. "I was screaming for (the ball), (Ciocca) gave me a perfect pass and I just put it away. I looked at the fans ... and I just knew we were going to lock it down and go to semistate."

The Lions played cautiously in the first half as they dealt with a strong wind in their faces and they were content to go into the half scoreless. When the field flipped after halftime, however, they went on the attack. 

The game's defining moment came shortly after the break. Graves and freshman Zoey Sturm ran a give-and-go on the edge of the box that culminated in a one-touch strike from Graves into the top of the net for the game's only score. 

"I honestly wanted to cry," Graves said of her emotions after burying the shot.

The Lions shut down the prolific Hamilton Heights offense almost completely, surrendering few scoring chances. The Huskies' best opportunity came in the 59th minute with a shot from just outside the box, but goalkeeper Samantha Christle made a terrific leaping save.

"We knew what kind of team we had this year, we knew we had something special," Leo coach Mike Bitler said. "Time and time again, we just keep coming through with their fight and their determination."

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