KENDALLVILLE – Bishop Dwenger finally broke through against a stubborn Leo defense and came away with its first girls soccer regional championship in five years.
The Saints scored two second-half goals to slide past the defending regional champion Lions 2-0 in the Class 2A East Noble Regional final Saturday.
Dwenger (15-4) advances to the South Bend St. Joseph Semistate at noon Saturday against either No. 9 Crown Point or No. 7 Valparaiso.
Sophomore Lexie Royals goal midway through the second half gave Dwenger a 1-0 lead. The Saints added a goal in the final three minutes from senior Kate Potosky when Leo (14-4-2) had made some drastic changes in an effort to get the tying goal.
We get more into it, and it makes us work even harder than we did before, Royal said of the offensive output matching the defensive intensity. (The Lions) gave us really good competition, and they worked their butts off. We just came together and pulled it off.
The Saints had to be patient against a Lions team that had 15 shutouts this year, including ties.
They played very good defense, and their team was very disciplined, Dwenger coach Jeff Killion said. We had a lot of the possessions, and we were finally able to break through in the second half and also got another late one. They knew they would be (playing) back a little bit. We were just going to be patient and just keep the ball like we do.
Killion replaced Jason Wisniewski this season. Wisniewski moved to the East Coast after winning state championships in 2005 and 2006 and advancing to the state finals in 2007. After a lull, the program appears to be on the upswing.
Its a big step for us, Killion said of winning the regional title. We had a lineup change and a formation change and some people playing in different positions, so it has taken awhile to get used to it.
Coming off a historical 2011 season, Leo dealt with graduation losses, youth, injuries and a rocky start to the season. But the Lions still managed to win eight straight at one point, won a sectional title and returned to the regional finals after beating No. 6 Homestead 2-1 on penalty kicks in the semifinals.
We had our chances, and it was a pretty good battle for most of the time, Leo coach Jerry Jenkins said. We just had a couple of bad breaks, and that happens. Today we came out on the other end of the stick, but next year we will see what happens.
Theres a bright future in Leo. We went from winning regionals and getting beat by Hamilton Southeastern (in the semistate) and graduated a lot of seniors. We started off with Carroll and Westfield in the first two games of the year, and we got beat up pretty good.
Then we had a good run with eight wins in a row, and then Snider gave us a pretty good whooping, and then we woke up.