Heading into the final week of the regular season before sectionals begins, both the Eastbrook boys and girls soccer teams are playing at a high level.
Coming into Monday evening, the boys had not lost a game since August 25. Since then, they had won 10 games, eight straight, and six via shutout. The girls, on the other hand, were a on three-game win streak.
Both squads remained red-hot, increasing their respective winnings streaks to four and 11 with a pair of shutout victories over Mississinewa. The girls came away with a 6-0 triumph, while the boys ended the evening with a 3-0 victory.
Early in the contest, the Indians did an excellent job of keeping the Eastbrook offense from gaining much traction, playing in a tight defensive formation. Sarah Foulk scored her first goal of the contest less than 10 minutes in off an assist from Naomi Diller, but for the most part, the Panthers were held in check for the opening 20 minutes.
However, after some adjustments midway through the first half, the Panthers began to assume control, and by halftime, had the match well in hand.
“We had to change. We decided to change our formation because we kept trying to ram it up the middle and it wasn’t working,” Hallis said. “I was very proud that the girls were able to switch the formation in the middle of the game, and I thought they did well.”
Diller added to the Panthers’ lead late in the first half off an excellent feed from Johwen McKim, and despite having a two-goal advantage, the Panthers continued to push offensively, keeping consistent pressure on the Mississinewa defense. With 36 seconds remaining, it paid off, as Foulk scored her second of the evening to make it 3-0.
Eastbrook kept the pedal down in the second half, scoring three more goals in the final 20 minutes. Foulk completed her hat trick, while Chloe McDaniel collected two tallies in a span of 5:19 to help put the match on ice.
While Foulk and McDaniel provided most of the scoring, it was the stout play of Diller that made it all possible. Eastbrook’s senior midfielder made her mark on both ends of the pitch, finishing with a goal and two assists while playing stellar defense on Mississinewa’s talented front line of Alayna Webb and Lia Luchetti, keeping them both grounded.
“She is the unsung hero of every game,” Hallis said. “I don’t think people know how much she does on the field. She is the anchor there in the midfield.”
Eastbrook outshot Mississinewa 20-4, including a 14-2 advantage in shots on frame.
“I was really proud of the girls,” Mississinewa Head Coach Andrea Wilson said. “We played better soccer today as far as looking for each other and passing. We kept fighting and we never gave up. Tonight, we came out and played hard as a team.”
Against a relentless Eastbrook attack, Indians’ sophomore goalkeeper Savannah Herrera stood tall against a flurry of shots, making 11 saves and showcasing her ever-growing confidence between the posts.
“I have to give big thanks to [Mississinewa boys assistant coach] Jordan McGrady,” Wilson said. “He has been working with her. Any chance I can get, I am throwing her in with the boys team to work with him because he is so good and she listens to him. She is gaining knowledge.”
After what Adam Hallis called a slow start, the Panthers’ boys team used a strong second of half to win their 13th contest, keeping their month-long unbeaten streak alive.
In the first 40 minutes, the play was even. Both teams finished with five shots, while both goalkeepers – Eastbrook’s Tytus Anthony and Mississinewa’s Micah Sylte – were locked in, making a combined five saves.
However, Eastbrook controlled most of the possession, spending a plethora of time on Missisissinewa’s side of the pitch. That led to a quite a few excellent scoring chances – and the Panthers first goal. Joseph Kerton-Johnson fired a beautiful cross in the direction of Bryan Popoca, who poked it home off a Mississinewa defender to give Eastbrook a 1-0 lead, which they took into halftime.
In the final 45 minutes, Eastbrook gained the momentum, using a combination of sturdy defense well as crisp passes and strong movement off the ball.
“In the first half, Mississinewa played [well,]” Eastbrook Head Coach Adam Hallis said. “They were switched on, and we were switched off here and there. But in the second half, we played much better. We won the ball a little bit more, and we created a little bit more.”
The contest remained 1-0 heading into the final 20 minutes, and as he has done since moving from goalkeeper to the field, Sam Spiegal put the Panthers on his shoulders. Spiegal, the team’s leading scorer, added two more to his season tally in a span of 3:11, both on perfectly placed long range shots.
“Sam just does what he does,” Hallis said. “He can just finish. He hit some nice shots.”
While Spiegal provided the offense, the Panthers’ defense kept Colin Yoder and Holden Brown under wraps, while not allowing the Indians to make much of a push offensively.
“We wanted to take seven, eight touches on the ball. When those guys play like that, we don’t win games,” Missississinewa Head Coach Jared Reel said. “When you take a couple of touches and pass the ball, we move the ball well down the field. We wanted to play as individuals. We didn’t show up to play tonight.”
Tytus Anthony recorded another clean sheet for the Panthers, making four saves in the shutout triumph.