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Chesterton turns tables on Valpo; hands Vikings first loss in sectional final

CHESTERTON -- The view of the No. 10 on Addy Joiner's back, as Carley Balas sees it, is preferable to seeing the digits on the front of her jersey.

"In practice, I'm like, no!" the Chesterton keeper said.

Joiner, the Trojans' prolific senior forward, provided the offense with a goal and an assist, while Balas provided the bulk of the defense, blanking previously-undefeated Valparaiso 2-0 in Saturday's Class A Chesterton Sectional championship.

"I'm never disappointed in Addy," Balas said. "She always brings her 'A' game. Having her up there is reassurance that we've got it."

Balas may have set the tone for the match in the ninth minute when she made two big stops on one Valpo possession, blocking the first, then hurrying back to get in position to corral the rebound.

"I was honestly freaking out, I was like, I've got to get up and I've got to get there," Balas said. "After I saved that, I feel like the whole team brightened up, like, we've got this, and settled down. It settled me down. I was nervous going into the game. Then it was, OK, I need to calm down, just makes the right saves and we're good."

At 10:37, Joiner played a through ball to Gina Geenen, whose 20-yard shot slipped by the Valpo keeper.

"It's mostly the goals, but you see the assists, coming back to win the ball and drawing the fouls, protecting it," Chesterton coach Ben Forgey said of Joiner. "Name anyone else player of the year and you guys are gonna look a certain way. She's done it for four years, leading from the front. She doesn't even necessarily need to say anything but she does. I knew we wanted to be safe to start the game. We didn't want to concede. We wanted to keep the game in front of us. We were giving some ground and making sure we're behind the ball. If we'd gone in 0-0, I would've been happy with that knowing we had the wind in the second half. To get the goal against the wind was a gift I was very happy to have."

The score was the same in the 52nd minute when Balas raced out to smother the ball and prevent an Ava Jaime breakaway chance.

"She saved our butts on several occasions," Joiner said of Balas. "She was a beast, a brick wall back there, I swear. It was great."

After a foul against Sydney Stott, Joiner made it 2-0 at 65:31 when she ripped a 32-yard free kick into the upper left corner of the net.

"I've been practicing it. I did it on senior night," Joiner said. "I'm glad Stott drew that foul. She got her jersey pulled and ended up going down. It was a great opportunity, I'm glad I was able to put that one away. It doesn't top Ashley Bakaitis. I think she hit one from 43 (yards) last year. That was impressive."

Valpo didn't seriously threaten again and Chesterton close out the title victory, reversing a 5-1 loss to the Vikings early in the season.

"It's beyond words," Balas said. "It's nice knowing we just beat the No. 6 team in the state, knowing they were undefeated. It gives us so much more hype, we'll be ready to go into regionals. We didn't really believe in ourselves. Now we believe in ourselves."

Joined called the win 'probably the biggest game of my high school career.'

"It's amazing," she said. "It comes full circle because we won it my freshman year and we won it again this year. It's surreal. I don't know. I'm still out of breath. It means the most. The last one here, with everyone, this is such a great team. The fact they were undefeated, we could be the first team to beat them. the rivalry, it means a lot. I have a lot of respect for that team. They're a great team. The fact we put two goals away on them and keep a shutout made it awesome."

The outcome validated Forgeys confidence in his squad.

"This is the game that both of us circled, the two best teams in the Region. Crown Point's going to try to have something to say about that probably next weekend," he said. "They're undefeated, they had a great season, you can't take anything away from them, but we're good, too. When they played us at the beginning of the season, we weren't the same team we are now. If they thought, like I said before the game, that they're four goals better than us, I hope they do because we showed they're not, we know they're not. We've improved, we've got talent, we've got work rate. We've got all it takes to win games and a team that's ranked No. 4, I don't care. I'll play anybody with this group."

Chesterton won its girls soccer sectional Saturday with a 2-0 win over previously-undefeated Valparaiso. The Trojans had lost to the Vikings 5-1 early in the season.

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