By TR HARLAN
When Chesterton boys soccer coach Jamie Sensibaugh told his team they were
only allowed to score on headers in the Sectional opener against Morgan Twp.
late in the second half, he probably didn’t know the dividends it would pay.
After scoring four times against the Cherokees that way on Thursday, Austin
Haire was able to head a ball past Valparaiso goalkeeper A.J. Ratajec with
12:29 to play on a pass from Ben Molnar to lift the Trojans to a Sectional
title for the third time in four years.
“Austin’s been great in the air,” Sensibaugh said. “We’ve been working on
getting the ball outside and outflanking the defense. We put a lot of guys
in the box and try to get the crossing pass. It worked.”
Defense was the difference maker in the game led by Chesterton senior
goalkeeper Alec Houpt. Houpt made 11 saves and picked up his seventh shutout
of the season.
“Alec Houpt had an amazing game and made some huge stops to preserve this
win,” Sensibaugh said.
Houpt was tested on several occasions by the Vikings, but was up to the task
every time. With just under 30 minutes to play, Gerrard Akright hit a shot
from 25 yards out on a restart that was headed inside the right post in the
upper 90. The 6-foot-6 senior pushed the ball wide.
“It was a solid performance by the Trojans,” Sensibaugh said. “Mark Gore
commanded the field and our entire defensive unit stayed tightly organized.”
The No. 9-ranked Vikings also tested the defense when Gore cleared a rebound
near the goal just ahead of Akright’s shot. And in the final six minutes,
the Vikings had a header from Ben Wallace and a shot on a restart by Max Van
Houten that couldn’t find the net.
“We talked about taking advantage of our opportunities on throw-ins, set
pieces and direct kicks while, at the same time, limiting Valpo’s,”
Sensibaugh said. “We defended those situations very well today and that
along with Houpt’s goalkeeping gave us the win against a very sound,
offensive-minded Valpo team.”
Chesterton (13-3-1) will face off against Portage on Wednesday night at 6:30
p.m. at Thomas Jefferson Middle School in Valparaiso.
“This was a total team victory today,” Sensibaugh said. “Everyone performed
their role to perfection. I’m extremely proud of our team.”
Chesterton – Austin Haire 1 goal; Ben Molnar 1 assist; Alec Houpt 11 saves.
Valparaiso – Grant Reed 5 saves; A.J. Ratajec 0 saves.
Records – Chesterton 13-3-1, Valparaiso 12-3-3.