Tipton’s women’s soccer team surpassed what could reasonably be expected of the Blue Devils last Saturday when Tipton outlived Fort Wayne Blackhawk Christian 1-0 in overtime to win the Class A Taylor Regional.
The Blue Devils scored in the 92nd minute with a random chance of penalties within two minutes. With that, No.7 Tipton (14-4) had survived and took a place in the northern half-state on Saturday against No.6 Andrean (14-3-3) at South Bend.
Tipton senior Ella Wolfe was spent after the regional final. Every player from Tipton’s starting 11 played the entire game.
“I told some of my teammates that I used to play 80 minutes, but playing 94 was a complete game-changer,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe is one of seven Tipton players who were part of the Blue Devil basketball team that reached the Class 2A final last February and lost the final to Linton-Stockton. Now, football’s Blue Devils are racing in a different sport, but can use some of their previous experiences to forge stronger bonds as teammates and get through tough games.
“I feel like we have a great group of athletes,” Tipton coach Taylor Heard said. “We have a few who play soccer all year round, but we have girls who have seen college level in several sports. I think our mental maturity is our biggest strength. We have five seniors who have been leaders since their first year. They have always been a strong group.
“[The Blue Devils] have their heads on their shoulders. They know what it’s like to go this far and get it ripped off, so whatever happens on Saturday they’ll play for the seniors. They want to win for the seniors, and the seniors will give nothing but their best.
Tipton has won three sections in a row. The 2019 Blue Devils lost to Eastbrook in the regional semifinals. In 2020, Tipton defeated Eastbrook in the semifinals and then lost to Lafayette Central Catholic in the final. On Saturday, the Blue Devils won their first regional title since 2014.
It was the fourth consecutive elimination game the Blue Devils had won. The basketball team won five straight games with playoff pressure last winter to reach the final.
“It really helps to know that we have gone to the state in basketball,” said Abbi Parker, senior at Tipton. “And [that experience] help because you have a little less pressure because you have been there and understand what you are doing.
Parker said that being able to take advantage of these similar experiences is “a positive thing because female footballers haven’t come this far in a long time and it’s definitely an excitement and a lot of fun to be around.”
Parker, Ella Wolfe, Hallie Wolfe, Alli Powell, Kaiya Money, Sofia Carter and Kyra Ley were all on the basketball team last winter.
“I would say for the girls who played basketball and are now here it helps [you] know what you’re working towards, ”said Ella Wolfe. “It’s always nervous, obviously, but it certainly gives you an idea of what to expect and the competition you are going to face.”
Ella Wolfe and Parker are seniors, and the rest of the basketball contingent are in sophomores.
“When I play basketball I feel like a great leader, and that’s also what I feel as a senior this year,” said Ella Wolfe, an IUK basketball rookie. “I feel a lot of pressure showing the girls how much work you have to put in to get the result we want, and even if you are tired you have to give your all because this could be the last game of the season and no one wants that.
Parker said there isn’t much that translates directly from basketball to football, but the connections between hardwood and the football pitch do impact the team’s chemistry.
“I would say in some ways yes, based on the fact that we’re so close and we just understand how each player plays,” she said.
Their determination, skills and solidarity will pass their toughest test yet on Saturday against Andrean.
Parker is happy to be with his teammates for another week and is hoping for another week before the end of the race. For Saturday, she’s emphasizing “communication, and making sure we’re on top and we’re focused and ready for them.”
Everything this week is focused on preparing for 11 am Saturday morning at South Bend St. Joseph, the game’s host school.
“We are very excited to know that we are the only ones who are coming out of a regional and being able to move to a semi-state,” said Ella Wolfe. “We’re very happy to make sure we’re doing everything we can to get through this next game and be able to play for a state championship.”