BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — A week of boys and girls soccer sectional action gets moving today with action at several sites.
In Class 2A play, Western and Kokomo square off in the Logansport Boys Sectional at 6 p.m. Another pair of local rivals, Taylor and Northwestern, meet at 5:30 p.m. at the Class A Northwestern Boys Sectional.
On the girls side, Eastern meets Tipton today at the Class A Hamilton Heights Sectional.
Below are previews of sectionals involving Howard County squads.
The Panthers downed the Wildkats 4-2 in the regular season in a competitive game. Western takes a 13-2-1 record into the postseason.
“It was a little closer than 4-2. I think we scored that fourth goal late in the second half,” Western coach Mike Roe said of his team’s victory over Kokomo. “We’ve improved, but we’re expecting that Kokomo has improved as well.
“For us to be competitive [in the sectional], No. 1, we’re going to have to start out and maintain possession, and at the same time we’re going to have to do it with a purpose. We really need to get the ball off our foot and play a fast moving, 1-2-touch game and see if we can’t get these teams on their heels early on.”
Kokomo enters sectional play 6-10.
“Of course [the Panthers] are going to be the favorites, they have more seniors on the squad than we do, they have lots of experience,” Kokomo coach Kismet Morrison said.
“For us, still lots of inexperience on the team. We just need to show up on the day. If we can show up with passion and discipline and concentration I think we’ll be OK. The biggest mistakes the opposition can make is to underestimate us.”
Also at Logansport, the host Berries await the Kats-Panthers winner in Wednesday’s semifinal round with defending champion Marion and sectional newcomer Mississinewa squaring off on the other side of the bracket. The championship is 1 p.m. Saturday.
The defending sectional champion Purple Tigers host a tourney previously held in Tipton. Northwestern opens today with Taylor. Tipton and Tri-Central play on Tuesday, and Rossville awaits the NW-Taylor winner on Wednesday.
Northwestern (11-4-1) enters with Mid-Indiana Conference championship hardware to its credit, including a 7-1 victory over Taylor, as well as a win over TC.
“We had a really good year,” Tiger coach Jim Wagner said. “I think out of all our teams we’ve had, this is one of the best ballhandling teams, so I think that bodes well for our ability to do well in the sectional and postseason.
“If we can maintain a high level of energy throughout, we can play with anybody.”
OAK HILL SECTIONAL
Sectional play begins today with Eastbrook and Blackford. Eastern (12-4-0) and defending champ Oak Hill clash on Wednesday. The Eagles beat the Comets 4-3 in the regular season.
“Our goal is to be ready to be competitive at sectional time each year and we’re ready,” Eastern coach John VanMatre said. “It’s a sectional we can win. it’s on us whether we execute or not.
“We’ve had a couple clean sheets going into the sectional which is nice. It’s just a matter of us playing with confidence.”
Jordan VanMatre is tied with Darren Bellow at 21 goals for Eastern, but Jordan VanMatre will likely miss the sectional due to injury. Cole Walker has another 10 goals and Dalton Ryan has eight assists.
Defending champion Kokomo (10-7) tips off Tuesday against Marion (11-2-1). The North Central Conference champion Giants topped the Kats 5-1 in the regular season. Western opens Thursday against Mississinewa while Logansport awaits the Kat-Giant winner on Thursday.
“I think when we played Marion during the season, the girls were so over-amped up maybe and over-excited that focusing and settling the ball and beating players one-on-one was not what we did,” Kokomo coach Kevin Duggins said. “After a long halftime discussion we came out in the second half and tied 1-1. We can definitely play Marion and make this a great game, but we have to come out with a good start.”
Cheyenne Eltringham leads Kokomo with 17 goals while strike partner Taylor Coram has 14. Coram and Eltringham each have nine assists and Holly Stewart has six.
HAM. HTS. SECTIONAL
Eastern plays Tipton today at 7 p.m. in the opening day of play at the Class A Hamilton Heights Sectional. Muncie Burris and Sheridan also play today. Taylor (2-13-1) and defending sectional champ and reigning MIC champ Hamilton Heights meet on Tuesday before Tri-Central and Wapahani play.
The Comets’ are 12-2, with their only losses to Sheridan and Heights. Eastern’s game with Tipton this season was cancelled due to bad weather.
“Seemed like this season, we’re either beating up on a team or [two squads] beat us pretty good, which are Hamilton Heights and Sheridan, who are both in our sectional,” Eastern coach Chris Rees said. “I think both teams are beatable for us, but we have to be at the top of our game. We need to interrupt their pass play. Both teams possess the ball a little bit better than we do.”
W. LAFAYETTE SECTIONAL
Northwestern (8-7) has a bye and opens play on Thursday against the winner of today’s Faith Christian/Delphi winner. On Tuesday, Lafayette Central Catholic and Rossville meet before Benton Central vs. defending champion West Lafayette.