By Tribune sports staff
— Argos’ impressive display of offense in the first half was too much for Carroll’s boys soccer team to overcome Thursday in a Class A Caston Regional semifinal match.
The No. 16-ranked Dragons scored four first-half goals and held on for a 4-2 victory. They improved to 18-1-1 on the season and will face Oak Hill (15-2-1), which defeated Peru 3-0 Thursday, at 4 p.m. Saturday in the regional final. Carroll finishes 13-7.
“Defensively, we played solid in the sectional, and the first 40 minutes [Thursday] we did not,” Carroll coach Dave Falkenberg lamented. “We stuck out a lot of legs as opposed to playing solid D. However, No. 10 [Damon Binkley] was probably the best player we’ve seen this year.”
Binkley led the first-half onslaught, recording three goals and an assist during a 23-minute time span. When the damage was done, the Dragons had a 4-1 lead with 10:54 left in the half and the Cougars had to play catch-up the rest of the game.
Binkley now has 36 goals on the season.
Carroll junior Justin Willoughby scored two goals to keep the Cougars in the contest. His first one was on a direct kick in which he bent it past the keeper to make it a 1-1 game in the 12th minute. He added a goal with 9:19 left in the game following a ricochet off a corner kick.
Willoughby finished with 16 goals on the season.
“I haven’t seen a whole lot of D-I, other than on TV, I’ve seen a few in person. He’s got D-I skills and smarts,” Falkenberg said. “The one question mark will end up being speed and height, unfortunately, but I would take him over any other center-mid I’ve played all year.”
The Cougars looked particularly impressive on set pieces — throw-ins, corner kicks and direct kicks — but didn’t finish enough of them.
“We left chances on the field,” Falkenberg said. “We had a chance in the first minute and a half on a throw-in that dropped inside the 6 and we didn’t get a foot on it. We had at least two more times it dropped inside the 6 to 10 on a throw-in or corner that we didn’t get anything on.
“We struggled all year with finishing. Unfortunately we just could not finish the ball.”
Argos’ only loss this season was in its first match of the year against Goshen. Fifth-year Argos coach Todd VanDerWeele talked about his school’s tradition in soccer.
“We don’t have football, have never had football. This is the 50th season we’ve had soccer,” he said. “Going to class has obviously given us a few more opportunities to advance in the tournament, before we always had to play Warsaw in the tournament. The kids start playing when they’re 4 and 5 years old and a lot of them play 12, 13 years up through high school.”
VanDerWeele was impressed with Carroll.
“Carroll took advantage of a lot of mistakes we made and put a lot of pressure on us. They didn’t give up and I was worried until the end,” he said. “They do a lot of things well. They move the ball, try to move the ball fast down the field. They’re a disciplined team and they stick to their game plan well.”
Carroll tied the school record for wins in a season, won its fifth straight Hoosier Heartland Conference title and first-ever sectional title this season. The Cougars will lose seven seniors to graduation but the future of the program remains bright.
“I had said last year our sophomore group last year, juniors this year, were the core of our team,” Falkenberg said.
Falkenberg looked like The Lone Ranger minus a mask on the sidelines, but his cowboy hat didn’t bring him the luck he was looking for.
“That was a lost bet,” he said. “A couple of my defenders had made a bet with me about a month ago that if we won sectionals, ‘Coach, you’ve got to dress as a cowboy.’ And I’ve got no problem living up a bet. I’m glad to do it winning sectionals and I don’t think it would have mattered [Thursday] night, cowboy hat or not.”
— Beau Wicker
Kokomo def. Marion 25-15, 25-14, 28-26
The Wildkats (9-23, 1-6 NCC) picked up their first conference victory of the season, spoiling the Giants’ senior night.
Samantha Johnson led the charge with 27 assists and 10 digs. Alanis Jones led a well-rounded offensive attack with 11 kills. Allie Cook finished with eight kills and 11 digs, Morgan Bailey added six kills, Tori Lauderbaugh added five kills, and Amanda Tran rounded out the Kats’ leaders with 15 digs and 16 service receptions.
“We knew they weren’t a really strong hitting team,” Kokomo coach Jason Watson said. “They try to tip and place the ball a lot. We did a good job, for the most part, of picking those up. We struggled a bit in the third set, but it was their senior night and they weren’t going to lay down, so it was nice to finish it off. I’m proud of our effort.”
Northwestern def. Carroll 25-22, 25-12, 25-19
The Tigers were in complete control, sweeping the Cougars.
“We did what we wanted to do, so the girls were solid all the way around,” Northwestern coach Randy Teachout said.
Hannah Ballard led the Tigers with 13 kills, 10 digs and four blocks. Sydney Zeck added 14 assists and 13 service points. Hannah Treadway had 11 kills, and Marie Hunkeler came up with nine serve receptions.
Carroll, which celebrated senior night, was led by senior Kaitlin Ragan with 13 assists and four digs. Junior Bailey Worl added eight kills and five blocks, and junior Alivia Seward had six digs and five kills. Sophomore Cassidy Carmen came up with 19 digs, and freshman Libby Eller had 12 digs.
“Ragan has been the leading setter, and holds this year’s record for most assists,” Carroll coach Denny Crum said. “Senior servers shined with Allison Nelson serving two aces on 10 serves without a single error. Taylor Walters had seven serves without an error, and Mary Ropes has been an excellent server all year with eight serves.”
Clinton Prairie def. Tri-Central 25-16, 25-17, 25-23
Tri-Central (9-21) kept getting closer to Clinton Prairie with each game, but the Gophers ended up sweeping the Trojans.
“This was a really nice high school match,” Tri-Central coach Ron Byram. “They just had one more volley then we did.”
Tara Davis led Tri-Central with 22 assists. Morgan Burke had 12 digs. Cecilia Rayl added seven digs, and Haley Farris came up with six. Amelia Moe contributed with eight kills, and Sara Fye, Hadley Deweese and Shelby Ramsey each had five kills.
Northfield def. Maconaquah 25-11, 25-21, 25-19
Micheala Walters had a dozen digs, eight service receptions and six service points for the Braves. Taylor Hardwick had six kills and six solo blocks. Keeana Walton added four solo blocks. Ally Exmeyer had nine digs. Madison Turner had 13 digs and eight service receptions. Emily Wilson had 10 points, 18 digs and five assists And Jalyn Windsor had six digs.
The Braves finished regular-season play at 19-13.