BY PEDRO VELAZCO
Tribune staff writer
LOGANSPORT — Last week, the girls soccer squads from Kokomo and Logansport staged one of their classic grudge matches, going into overtime before the Wildkats scored the decider.
Thursday night in Logansport, the Kats came out intense, and never let it get tense.
Kokomo beat Logansport 3-0 Thursday night in the opening game of the Class 2A Logansport Sectional. The Kats took control with a three-goal flurry in a six-minute span midway through the first half.
“I didn’t want this to be last year,” Kokomo coach Myles Geary said, referring to a loss to Logan in last year’s sectional. “[Last year we] beat them in the regular season and then come back and we don’t score a goal at all [in the sectional]. I was glad to see we just came out so ready.
“We were so relaxed, so calm, so focused on just winning the game. It was a weird intensity. It was like, ‘We’ve got this.’”
Kokomo (9-5-1) advances to face Marion at 1 p.m. Saturday for the title. Marion beat Western 11-1 in Thursday’s second semifinal.
Kokomo got on the board in the 21st minute. The Wildkats got a long throw into the Logansport box and Logan goalie Elaine Evanich clashed with a Kat for the ball, neither came up with it and the ball ricocheted to forward Cheyenne Eltringham, who finished into an open net.
With the wind at their backs, the Kats kept coming. Addy Takacs had a big rip saved, and Taylor Sparling sliced a shot just out of bounds before the Kats hit the net again in the 25th minute. Takacs, playing in center midfield, played a short looping ball over the Logan defense to Holly Stewart. Stewart raced Evanich to the ball, just getting a touch to it as they crossed paths, guiding the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Eltringham then stole the ball straight off Logan’s kick off following the goal, and pressed into the heart of the Logan defense. Eltringham was fouled just outside the 18-yard box right in front of goal for a free kick. Spencer Wesche drilled the freebie into the left side netting for a 3-0 lead, just six minutes after the game’s opening goal.
“I think our attack is a lot faster than theirs and once we started our give-and-goes, our pressure is too much to handle,” Eltringham said.
“We finally got into our rhythm and we got our flow together and we realized they were giving us a lot of space, so we were able to take advantage of it.”
She said the difference between the game last week and Thursday night’s sectional opener was in the Kats’ energy level.
“Our intensity was a lot better than last time,” Eltringham said. “Everything was just on point.
“I think we played with a ton of heart, and that was one thing that I really liked to see from our girls.”
Logansport coach Todd Reiff said the Berries’ didn’t match Kokomo’s fire.
“We just didn’t play very well,” he said. “We just didn’t come out with the intensity of play like I anticipated we would. [The Kats] did, they came out strong. It was just like I told the girls, it was a matter of intensity and we didn’t match their intensity, for the majority of the game.”
Logansport forced Kokomo goalie Becca Wade into six saves but none a nail-biter. Geary noted that she didn’t let a single ball spill after making a save, once she had her mitts to it, it was secure. He praised the play of midfielder Taylor Coram, Eltringham and midfielder Bre Kinder. Kinder played at less than 100 percent after injuring an ankle in practice but played heavy minutes anyway.
The Kat coach was also glad to see a shutout. Kokomo’s defenders and midfielders did a good enough job of winning balls that the Wildkats didn’t have to commit big numbers to defense, and were free in attack to cause trouble with numbers.
The Berries close the season 7-8-1. Marion 11, Western 1
Courtney Pitzer scored Western’s goal on a breakaway in the first half to narrow Marion’s lead to 3-1. Panther goalie Cybil Johnson was constantly busy, collecting 23 saves.
“I thought they played really well,” Western coach Nicole Jackson said. “We were kind of hoping to get somebody else this draw. We know they’re a tough school and we just made the promise that we were going to fight til the end no matter what win or lose.
“Unfortunately it didn’t show on the scoreboard but we fought hard ’til the end and I’m so proud of them.”
The Panthers finished the season 9-6-1 after finishing a game under .500 last year.