PREP BOYS SOCCER: Drenth's late tally lifts Goshen to NLC title over Warsaw

·4 min read

Sep. 23—GOSHEN — Kovan Drenth sent the ball barreling to the net, and with it, five years of frustration went away for the Goshen boys soccer team.

The senior rocketed a 35-yard shot over the outstretched hands of Warsaw goalkeeper Nehemiah Wright with 4:50 remaining in the game Thursday, putting Goshen ahead 2-1 and sending the home crowd into a thunderous ovation.

The No. 13 (Class 3A) RedHawks then held off a slew of Tiger scoring chances in the final five minutes — including a corner kick attempt as time expired — to give them the win and their first Northern Lakes Conference boys soccer championship since 2017.

"It was the end of the game and I didn't know what else to do," said Drenth of the game-winning shot. "There wasn't really anything else open, so I just took a chance, hit it with my left foot and it went in."

At 6-0-1 in the NLC, nobody can catch Goshen in the final standings. Warsaw came in the closest to them with a 3-1 conference mark (now 3-2).

"It feels great," said Drenth of winning the conference title. "I've never felt this before. I have no words."

It's the first time the RedHawks have gone unbeaten in NLC games since 2015. The 2017 team won the conference title with a 6-1 NLC mark.

"It's a long time coming," said Goshen coach Viratham Mounsithiraj of winning the NLC title. "I feel like with the talent that comes through Goshen, we expect to be here almost every year. We've come close a couple times — but now's not the time to worry about that. I'm just proud of the kids."

A victory for the home team seemed far from certain with 29:40 remaining in the contest. Following a contested fight for the ball, Goshen sophomore Hayden Clark was given a red card. This led to emotions boiling over on both sidelines, leading to red cards being handed out to Goshen assistant coach Josh Snyder and Warsaw head coach Ryan Burgher.

The most important card, though, was on Clark, as it left Goshen a man down for the rest of the game.

"I told them, 'Listen guys, there's nothing we can do about what just happened; we can't bring that back. Now, it's important we get back to what we need to do,'" said Mounsithiraj was the message to his team following the red card. "We needed to really focus on what we were here for and not argue with the refs. And, they did a really good job of that."

With the odds stacked against them, the RedHawks came out of the break the aggressor. Pressure ultimately led to a goal from senior Josh Cruz, who corralled the ball just inside the goalie box and took a left-footed shot that snuck inside the right-corner of the net. This gave the home team a 1-0 lead with 27:02 showing on the game clock.

"I think (Cruz's goal) calmed the guys down even more," Mounsithiraj said. "We knew that, coming in, all we had to do was get a tie to win the NLC, and I think they understood that. So, I think that was a big relief."

From that point-on, Goshen played a more defensive-minded game, having Cruz stand at midfield and the other eight field players standing in between the senior and goalkeeper Tomas Hernandez. This worked for a while, as Warsaw saw numerous scoring chances get wiped out from the RedHawk defense.

The No. 10 (3A) Tigers' pressure ultimately broke through, however. With around 11 minutes to go, junior Julian Saldivar lined up a free kick that acted like a pseudo corner kick. He sent the ball hooking toward the net, and the foot of junior Noah VanPuffelen was there to send it into the back of the net, knotting things up at one with 10:35 to go.

Both teams traded scoring chances over the next five minutes before Drenth's shot won the game for his team, who improves to 10-1-3 overall on the season with the victory.

"We won the NLC, and in this year, against a team like Warsaw — that says a lot about our kids and our character," Mounsithiraj said. "We have talented kids, and they played together (Thursday). ... Our kids, they bought-in to what we're trying to do; there's not much complaining in practice. They understand what we're here for, and it's good feeling that way. And obviously, when you're winning, it helps."

Goshen has two non-conference games remaining in the regular season, both against well-regarded teams. They play Mishawaka Marian (10-1-2) Saturday on the road before returning home Tuesday for a game against Penn (6-3-4).

Austin Hough can be reached at austin.hough@goshennews.com or at 574-538-2360. Follow him on Twitter at @AustinHoughTGN.