West Lafayette scored three second-half goals, two by senior Jay Chapman, to subdue Central Catholic 3-0 in the opening round of the Class A Benton Central sectional last night.
The match was the first of the doubleheader at Benton Central’s soccer field. The Red Devils (8-6-2), the defending sectional champs, move on to the sectional semifinals at 5 p.m. Wednesday to play Carroll (11-6), a 5-1 winner over the host Bison in the second match. Delphi (6-8-1) will battle Faith Christian (10-4-2) in Wednesday’s second game.
West Lafayette, which had not won in its last five games (0-3-2), was looking for something to get them going after playing the Knights to a draw in the first 40 minutes. Playing with the wind in the second half, the Red Devils forced play on Central Catholic’s end of the field, hoping more opportunities would turn into points.
The Red Devils got the breakthrough at the 27:02 mark when their leading scorer, Jack Erdman, punched in a rebound shot that bounced off of Central Catholic goalie Tim Wagner.
“Lev Zemlyanov shot it and I was right there to get it back in,” Erdman said. “We thought since it was 0-0 at halftime, we needed to pick it up since it could be our last half of soccer as seniors. The goal was big, because it took a lot off our shoulders since we haven’t scored much in the last couple of games.”
The goal spelled trouble for Central Catholic (5-13), which missed out on several opportunities to score with the wind on the south goal in the first half. Coach Billy Hall said, though, the Knights played well enough to compete with anyone in sectional.
“I told the guys that the score wasn’t reflective of how competitive we were,” Hall said. “They scored off some set pieces but on the run of play, we were 50-50 and this is the level of play we’ve been looking for all year.”
Chapman scored the first of two goals when he came up with the ball just outside of the Knights’ left goal post and slipped a shot through the middle of the net with 11:59 remaining.
“Jack shot it to the left and it just came right back to me,” Chapman said. “It bounced off the goalie and I put it back in. At that point we just wanted to keep pouring it on.”
Chapman scored the Red Devils’ final goal off a Free Burton pass with 7:53 left in the game to all but put the contest away.
“I ran in early and Burton played a perfect ball,” Chapman said. “Jack and I were there at the same time and I was able to get my foot on it. The goalie was out of the box, so I was able to get it in.”
The Red Devils outshot the Knights 6-1 in the second half as the wind made it difficult to advance the ball with long passes.
“The wind didn’t bother us that much because we play with the ball on the ground most of the time,” said West Lafayette coach Andrew Kiernan. “A lot of teams we play like that long ball. They had some opportunities in the first half with the long ball that surprised us. We’ve had trouble putting the ball in the back of the net, but we knew when we did the gates would open up. We’ve been working on set pieces a lot and we got two off set pieces today.”
Hall said he knew with the number of chances West Side was getting, it would be difficult for his defense to keep the game scoreless.
“When you give up shots on goal, surrendering a rebound shot is always a possibility,” Hall said. “We knew if we kept giving them chances they were going to get some in. But we had our chances too, but we just didn’t get fortunate with our shots on goal.”
Carroll moved on thanks to first-half goals from Eric Miller, Justin Willoughby and Martin Justinussen. Willoughby finished with two goals, and Cougars goalkeeper Seth Eldrige made four saves.
Gunther Balensiefer scored in the first half for Benton Central, which finishes 0-13-1.