FORT WAYNE – Homestead has turned to defense to turn its season around and make a deep postseason run.
At the start of the season, the Class 2A No. 16 Spartans (15-2-4) were dealing with the loss of 80 percent of their scoring from the previous season because of graduation and an ACL injury to sophomore Hannah Dolfuss. The team, though, did have three of four defensive starters returning, and thus the emphasis on stopping the opponent from scoring.
With us being such a strong and fast defensive team, we have worked hard to defend well and let our defense create the offense, Homestead coach Katie Metz said.
The Spartans have outscored their four postseason opponents 15-0 and have given up 11 goals this year with 12 shutouts.
We have a really strong defense, and hopefully that will keep us in the game for our scorers to get those chances, and we just have to put them away early, senior defender Morgan Cole said.
Since losing to Carroll (3-2) and Northridge (1-0) in the same week, Homestead is 6-0 and has given up only one goal.
We had a wake-up call with our losses, Metz said. We have had a few bumps in the road, but my philosophy for all of my teams has been; its not how you start the season, its how you finish.
The playoff run has been even a little unexpected to the players.
This year we kind of struggled because we lost our two top scoring people from last year, Cole said. This year we were trying to find that new person, and its been hard to get together as a team. After these last few games, we are starting to figure it out more. The more we play, the more we figure it out.
Homestead won its first regional title since 2008 last week with 1-0 wins over NHC rivals Carroll and DeKalb to earn a semistate matchup with Valparaiso (12-6-2) at noon Saturday in the South Bend St. Josephs Semistate.
Our goal at the beginning of the year is always state, but in all honesty I dont think any of us expected to get this far, senior defender Hannah Miller said. We are a very young team and for a while, a lot of our team was kind of looking at it as one game at a time and not how games in the middle of the season will affect the end. But then, as we got farther and farther into the season we talked about it more, and everybody realized we needed to step it up if we wanted to make it as far as we are going. Obviously, it has helped.
The Spartans and Valparaiso played to a scoreless tie in the second match of the season in August.
They are a very good team with strong forwards that strike the ball very well, Metz said of Valpo. They are very dangerous in the counter attack.
The semistate will be played on a turf field rather than grass. Homestead played the East Noble Regional on turf, and the Spartans practiced this week on Homesteads turf football field.
It is very different, Miller said.
It completely changes the way you play. Our team has a certain style that works on grass that may not always work on turf. We needed to make sure we were practicing (on turf) and adjusting as well as we can to the different terrain.