Tipton’s girls soccer squad pushed beyond what could reasonably be expected of the Blue Devils last Saturday when Tipton outlasted Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian 1-0 in overtime to win the Class A Taylor Regional.
The Blue Devils got a goal in the 92nd minute with the random chance of penalties less than two minutes away. With that, No. 7 Tipton (14-4) had survived and taken a spot in Saturday’s north semistate against No. 6 Andrean (14-3-3) in South Bend.
Tipton senior Ella Wolfe was spent after the regional final. Every player in Tipton’s starting 11 played the entire game.
“I told some of my teammates I’m used to playing 80 minutes, but playing 94 was a complete game-changer,” Wolfe said.
Wolfe is one of seven Tipton players who were a part of the Blue Devil basketball squad that made the Class 2A state final this past February and lost the final to Linton-Stockton. Now, the soccer Blue Devils are making a run in a different sport, but can use some of their previous experiences to forge stronger bonds as teammates and get through difficult games.
“I feel like we’ve got a great group of athletes,” Tipton coach Taylor Heard said. “We have a few that play soccer year round, but we have girls that have seen varsity level in multiple sports. I think our mental maturity is our biggest strong suit. We have five seniors who have been leaders from their freshman year. They’ve always been a strong group.
“[The Blue Devils] have got good heads on their shoulders. They know what it’s like to get that far and get it ripped away from them so no matter what happens on Saturday, they’re going to play for the seniors. They want to win for the seniors, and the seniors aren’t going to give anything but their best.”
Tipton has won three sectionals in a row. The 2019 Blue Devils lost to Eastbrook in the regional semis. In 2020, Tipton beat Eastbrook in the semis then lost to Lafayette Central Catholic in the final. On Saturday the Blue Devils won their first regional title since 2014.
That was the fourth straight elimination game the Blue Devils had won. The basketball squad won five straight games with postseason pressure last winter to reach the final.
“It definitely helps knowing that we’ve gone to state in basketball,” Tipton senior Abbi Parker said. “And [that experience] helps because you have a little less pressure because you’ve been there and understand what you’re doing.”
Parker said that being able to draw on those similar experiences is “a positive thing because the soccer girls haven’t gone this far in a long time and it’s definitely an excitement and a lot of fun to be around.”
Parker, Ella Wolfe, Hallie Wolfe, Alli Powell, Kaiya Money, Sofia Carter and Kyra Ley were all part of the basketball squad last winter.
“I would say for the girls who did play basketball and are now here, it does help [you] know what you’re working towards,” Ella Wolfe said. “It’s still nervous obviously, but it definitely gives you a sense of what to expect and the competition you’re going to be up against.”
Ella Wolfe and Parker are seniors, and the rest of the basketball contingent are sophomores.
“When playing basketball I’ve felt like a huge leader, and I also feel that way with being a senior this year,” said Ella Wolfe, an IUK basketball recruit. “I feel a lot of the pressure showing the girls how much work you have to put into it to get the result we want, and even if you’re tired, you have to give everything you have in you because it could be the last game of the season and nobody wants that.”
Parker said there isn’t much that translates directly from basketball to soccer, but the connections from the hardwood to the soccer field have an impact on team chemistry.
“I would say in some ways yes, based on us being so close, and just understanding how each player plays,” she said.
Their resolve, skill, and togetherness will get their toughest test yet on Saturday against Andrean.
Parker is glad to be around her teammates for another week and hopes for one more week before the ride ends. For Saturday, she’s stressing “communication, and making sure we’re on top of it and we’re focused and ready for them.”
Everything this week is focused on being ready for 11 a.m. Saturday morning at South Bend St. Joseph, host school for the game.
“We’re very excited knowing that we’re the only ones to get out of a regional and being able to advance to a semistate,” Ella Wolfe said. “We’re very excited to make sure we do everything we can to get through this next game and be able to play for a state championship.”