GAS CITY — The title-holders are again in a sectional final, and they crossed a major milestone on the way there.

Western’s Lucy Weigt bagged a hat trick Thursday to help the Panthers top Mississinewa 3-0 in the opening semifinal of the Class 2A Mississinewa Girls Soccer Sectional. That put the five-time sectional champ Panthers in Saturday’s title game against No. 19 Northwestern. Western takes a 12-6-1 record to the final. Mississinewa fell to 9-6-3.

Weigt’s goals gave her an even 100 for her career.

“It meant a lot to me,” Weigt said. “I’ve been wanting this all my life.”

The senior forward grew up around Western’s soccer programs, with an older brother and older sister ahead of her. Weigt staked Western to an early lead, but the Panthers kept banging up against a nest of Mississinewa defenders the rest of the first half. The Indians had a shadow defender on Weigt at all times and packed another four or five defenders behind her to keep Weigt and the Panthers out.

So in the second half, Western pulled Weigt back to an attacking midfield spot, off the forward line, which opened up Mississinewa’s defense. The Panthers got more effective wing play and more attacking passes into dangerous spots.

“We did a lot of through balls through the defense,” Weigt said. “We talked about that during halftime.”

Western coach Sam Parr explained the reasons for the position change, and how that helped open up more attacking options for the Panthers and Weigt.

“She’s better facing the goal when she’s able to run because they’re marking her with five or six, so at halftime we talked about switching her potentially to attacking and putting Abigail [Fouts] up top so that Abigail could drop to her, that way she could either take her shot from the attacking spot or look to go through the defense.

“In the first half, I thought we were trying too hard to force the ball to her to try to get that [milestone]. Whereas we got away from that the second half and the goals came.”

Weigt gave Western some breathing room midway through the second half when drove through the near left side of the box to motor into shooting position and scored.

“It’s a lot easier facing the goal,” Weigt said of how the changes helped in the second half.

She got the milestone goal in the 67th minute. An accurate feed from Liza Szerdy from the left wing opened up the center of the Mississinewa defense and Weigt scored from 16 yards out to put the game away and hit triple digits.

Weigt has 39 goals this season. Szerdy assisted all three goals Thursday and leads the squad with 13.

“Freshman year I wasn’t really thinking about getting my 100 goals, I didn’t think it was possible,” Weigt said. “Sophomore year I doubled the amount of goals I got and then junior year I started realizing that I could get it, and senior year it was just pushing through.”

Now the Panthers have pushed through to another sectional final, a rematch of last year’s sectional final which Western won 2-1. This season, Northwestern has topped Western twice, 4-1 on Sept. 15 and 3-0 on Sept 24.

“They beat us twice already,” Parr said. “We’ve got a new plan so we will see how it goes.

“The [milestone] goal is over and now we can focus on Northwestern.”

NW 13, MAC 0

Lexi Hale led the the Tigers with a hat trick. The game was called midway through the second half due to the mercy rule. Emily Keeney and Addy Robinson each had two goals and Katrin Saulamaa, Bethany Loveless, Morgan Kistler, Avery Rooze, Becca Lagoni and Abigail Keeney one each. Hannah Eller, Kistler, Abigail Keeney, Emily Keeney and Loveless each had an assist.

“They made some team goals at the beginning of the game of how they wanted the game to go, the type of play they wanted to do and I’d say they achieved those goals,” NW coach Christina Kidwell said.

Maconaquah finishes its season 5-10-1. Northwestern takes a 15-2-1 record into Saturday’s championship game.

“They set goals and sectionals was a big goal of theirs; they’ve had that since Day 1,” Kidwell said. “They’ve put the work in and they’re where they are at because of the work they’ve put in. They’re excited for Saturday because this is what they’ve worked for all season.”

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