BY PEDRO VELAZCO KOKOMO TRIBUNE
---- — TIPTON — Northwestern’s boys soccer team didn’t want to wait around to get a feel for the game or figure out its opponent Thursday night in the semifinal round of the Class A Tipton Regional.
The No. 11-ranked Purple Tigers started the game at full speed.
Northwestern’s midfield broke up Western Boone’s initial possession seconds after the opening kick and transitioned instantly, giving Robert Olsen a chance to score about 15 seconds into the game.
He didn’t get everything on his shot and it was saved, but the alarm bells were ringing already for the Stars. Northwestern broke through in the fourth minute and went on for a 5-1 victory.
On that opening goal, Tiger midfielder Spencer Lubben hit Olsen with a pass on the left side. The slippery forward beat two defenders on the dribble and shot past a third to score.
After scoring early in sectional games, the Tigers understood the value of a quick strike.
“It’s just really important because it lifts the morale of the whole team and it drops [the opponent] down,” Olsen said. “Once you get going, it’s contagious.”
Olsen finished the day with four goals and an assist as the Tigers (16-3-1) booked passage to play No. 1-ranked Guerin Catholic at 7 p.m. Saturday in the regional final.
Just as in the sectional, the Tigers put the opposition on its heels in the opening seconds.
“We talked about that again, coming out to try to put a lot of pressure on them and Robert came through again with four goals,” NW coach Jim Wagner said. “That’s a heck of an effort.”
Olsen struck again in the 21st minute, blocking a WeBo clearance in defense and controlling the loose ball behind the defense to score one-on-one with WeBo netminder Andrew Knecht. Olsen then set up NW’s third goal in the final minute of the first half. With his back to goal, he received a pass and dished to cutting midfielder Jacob Wagner who burst through on goal and scored for a 3-0 lead at the break.
”We did what Coach said,” Olsen said. “We moved the ball well, we got it down the sides and sent it in the middle. We just wore them down and were able to get easier opportunities.”
Western Boone (10-7-1) wasn’t able to deal with the speed of foot, and resulting speed of play, that Northwestern attacked with.
WeBo coach Mike Schlemmer said what impressed him about the Tigers was “their speed. They never give up, they track back really well in the midfield really well. They track back really well defensively. We had a great season. Losing to a team of this caliber, there’s no disgrace in that.
”It certainly took us a few minutes to adjust to them. I don’t know that we’ve seen a faster team all year.”
Hitting WeBo with speed was the plan.
”That’s one of the things that my assistant coach, when he went and watched them, he thought we were going to be faster and that was going to be a place where we’d be able to control the game,” Jim Wagner said. “It kind of reminded me of our younger team [in previous seasons], we were the ones that were a little bit slow. [Thursday], we were playing at a little faster pace than [WeBo] wanted to go.”
In the second half, Olsen scored in the 46th minute off a nice Tiger play. Blaine Brutus put a diagonal ball into the box from the right wing, Lubben faked that he’d receive the ball then let it through for Olsen to race in on goal. After a WeBo goal, Olsen finished the scoring on a great piercing pass from Brutus straight up the gut.
Northwestern now gets a rematch with Guerin Catholic after dropping a regular-season game to the Golden Eagles 4-3. Guerin crushed Hamilton Heights 9-1 in Thursday’s opener.