The Valparaiso High School boys soccer team punched its ticket to the Merrillville Regional on Saturday night at Viking Arena by securing the sectional championship with a 2-0 victory over Portage. This marks the second consecutive sectional championship for the Vikings.
Valpo continued to lean on a lockdown defense and a balanced offensive attack. Nick Hathoot and Paul Henderson each found the back of the net in the first half to lift the Vikings to victory.
“It’s total team work. It’s a total team effort,” head coach Danny Jeftich said. “These guys pull for each other, even if they make mistakes. It’s very good chemistry. If you look at the guys on this team, we don’t have one player that is a superstar. We have players who always help each other, who find a way to score a goal.”
Jeftich believes that Valparaiso’s depth and variety will continue to be an asset as the Vikings move into the regional.
“Teams cannot scout us really because they don’t know who is going to carry the load,” he said. “Our players on offense can score goals, but our defense if very tough.”
Valparaiso has leaned on its defense throughout the season. The Vikings have surrendered just eight goals in 18 matches this season. The sectional championship victory was their 11th shutout of the season, including a regular season 1-0 win over Portage and a 2-0 road victory over Munster, which will be the opponent in Thursday’s Merrillville Regional opener at 5 p.m.
The Vikings, who now hold a 16-2 mark, will not have too much time to celebrate prior to turning their attention to the Mustangs. According to Jeftich, the team planned to take Saturday night to enjoy the championship before beginning to form a plan for Munster on Sunday.
The Portage Indians finished the season over the .500 mark at 9-8-1.
“We knew it was going to be a tough battle against these guys because they’re very physical and they come to play,” Jeftich said. “I’m happy that we were able to pull it all together.”
As the boys soccer team hoisted the sectional championship plaque on Saturday night, it capped off a banner weekend for Vikings athletics. The varsity football team defeated Portage 43-14 on Friday night, the boys tennis team advanced to the state finals with Saturday’s semistate win over Culver Academy and the girls soccer team won the Portage Sectional by edging Chesterton in the championship 1-0.