HOBART — Michigan City goalkeeper Aryanna Hartsburg was visibly frustrated following Valparaiso's fourth goal of the first half.
The junior, who already racked up 11 saves in 35 minutes, threw up her hands and sunk her head. She was making Herculean stop after Herculean stop in an attempt to keep the Wolves in the game, but one can only do so much.
Despite diving, leaping and other miraculous plays in her 20-save performance, Michigan City fell to the Vikings 9-0 in the Hobart Sectional semifinals Thursday night.
"I mean, it's tiring but it's making me better," Hartsburg said. "When you always have to focus in and think about what shot is coming next, it helps a lot in becoming a better goalie. I really fed off the energy my team had all night. Them giving their all in a game like this really motivated me."
Hartsburg was getting peppered with shots all night long and was never given a chance to sit back and take a breath.
Defending champion Valparaiso confidently played an aggressively-high line defensively, with the goalie 40 yards out of the net and the defenders just 30 to 40 yards outside the Michigan City goal. This forced the Wolves' attackers to sag back to avoid any possible offsides calls and to help out defensively.
In theory, playing such a high line as the Vikings did would allow for plenty of promising counter-attacking possessions for Michigan City. But Valparaiso kept getting the ball so deep into the Wolves' territory that the defenders had to clear the ball countless times, making it nearly impossible for Michigan City to orchestrate any kind of counter-attack or methodical offensive possession.
This resulted in a gaping disparity in shots on goal, describing just how lopsided the game was aside from the illuminated numbers on the scoreboard. The Vikings tallied 30 shots on net, as opposed to the Wolves' zero. Michigan City rarely controlled the ball on Valparaiso's side of the field. It was within 30 yards of the Vikings' goal for less than 60 seconds all night long.
"I'm really proud of how my girls played tonight," said Michigan City head coach Mike Ramsey. "Valpo is ranked, what, 13th in the state? They're an exceptionally good team. The way we played tonight was miles better than the last time we played a couple months ago when we lost 12, 14 to nothing. We fought hard all night long. We went into this with the gameplan of sagging back on defense and limiting them more offensively than we did last time, and I think we did a better job of that."