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Written By StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Tes Berelsman takes the ball downfield while Victoria Magana and Merly Barrios trail during the sectional-opener in Warsaw Tuesday. (Photos by James Costello)

WARSAW — Fort Wayne South Side arrived about an hour late to Tuesday’s Warsaw Sectional-opener with the Lady Tigers. But while the game stretched much later into the night than originally scheduled, it was over long before that.

No. 15-ranked Warsaw had slotted away four goals within the first 24 minutes en route to a lopsided 10-0 margin, and the Lady Tigers advanced to play Huntington North in Thursday’s late semifinal slated to follow a contest between Fort Wayne Wayne and Homestead at 5 p.m.

Junior striker Abby Steffensmeier had a hand in three of those four early goals and already had a hat trick before leaving in the 24th minute.

She cleaned up her own, earlier attempt from point blank range in the fourth minute to put the Tigers on the board, and Audrey Grimm scored another cleanup goal less than four minutes later on a Tes Berelesman through ball to stake the home team to a 2-0 lead in the eight minute. Steffensmeier struck again in the 16th minute when she finished off a close shot into the far corner following another Berelsman helper, and she notched her third goal with a hard shot through the hands of South Side keeper New Ni Hlaing on a centering ball from Gracie Scholl in the 24th minute to give the Tigers a 4-0 cushion, far more than they would ever need.

Abby Steffensmeier watches her shot while Jenny Torres also looks on Tuesday.

“Abby showed up,” said Warsaw head coach Jon Hoover. “People that score goals like that, they just have a knack for it. She puts herself in the right place at the right time and because of that she draws a lot of attention, and she can make the players around her better. When she’s around the net, certain people just have that ability to know where to put it, and she’s just one of those players.”

Hoover pulled Steffensmeier not long after that third goal, but the rest of Warsaw’s deep lineup picked up where she left off.

Scholl scored her own goal when she bent a shot from the far corner of the field just under the crossbar and over the outstretched hands of a jumping Hlaing in the 31st minute, seemingly surprising even herself with the knuckling shot, Brenna Buhrt made a solo run up the wing and curled into the box for a close finish in the 24th minute, and Elizabeth Stone chipped in an empty-netter in the 37th as Warsaw ballooned its lead out to 7-0 at the half.

Hoover played swing and JV players the entire second half, and Warsaw demonstrated its depth with a trio of goals after the intermission. Jacie Nier slotted away a goal on a Valeria Martinez cross in the 59th minute, Rilee Groninger scored a cleanup goal following a scrum in the box in the 74th minute, and Brielle Fehlmann brought the score to its final margin with a cleanup score in the 75th.

The Tigers outshot their guests by a whopping 28 shots on frame to one, a direct attempt that was easily stopped by keeper Kaylee Patton in the 32nd minute, and took 10 corner kicks to none by South Side as the home team pretty much set up camp in the Archers’ half of the field.

Warsaw’s Brenna Buhrt battles South Side’s Kayla Niblack for possession.

“I was really excited because I got to bring up a lot of players. They allow us to dress 25 for these games for sectional, and we used a full 25,” said Hoover. “The second half we had a full squad that was all JV or swing players, and it was fun to see them get involved. It was great for our varsity players who’ve been up all year to watch them compete hard, and they did some really great things tonight.

“To have our players be able to sit for a half and watch the future group come through and do such a great job moving the ball, it was really encouraging for these coaches, encouraging for our team as they all train together to see some of our freshman come in and do so well.”

Tuesday’s win echoed last season’s 12-0 sectional-opening win over South Side and sets the stage for a rematch with Huntington North, which gave Warsaw all it could handle in an eventual 3-2 Tigers’ win in last year’s championship. Warsaw (11-4-1) will play the Vikings at approximately 7:15 p.m. Thursday.

“I don’t think they’re as strong as last year, but I do know that they come out really hard. I told my team we need to win the first 30 minutes,” Hoover said. “It’ll be a battle; it’s always a battle when you play Huntington North. They’re well-coached and well put together so for us we just want to take things in segments at a time. I think if we can own the first 30 minutes we’ll be in good shape for the rest of the game.”

Posted In: Girl's Sports > Soccer