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Bulldogs step forward
Notre Dame's girls soccer team has added another chapter to a storybook season.
The Bulldogs (21-2-1) fought off St. Pius 1-0 Saturday to advance to the Class 1 quarterfinals Tuesday at the Anheuser-Busch Conference and Sports Center in Fenton
Notre Dame, which defeated St. Pius 1-0 at Festus earlier in the season, had its hands full throughout the game. Both teams worked early to establish their possession styles. The play went back and forth through the first 15 minutes of the game with St. Pius hounding the Bulldogs' ball-handlers.
"Really the whole game they put a lot of pressure on us," Notre Dame coach Jeff Worley said. "They were able to disrupt our passing game and made it tough for us."
Notre Dame's offense broke through in the 15th minute when Amanda Dirnberger fed Sierra Ellis for a strong scoring chance deep inside the goal box. Ellis' shot sailed wide, but Notre Dame maintained momentum.
Five minutes later Ellis deflected a pass to the trailer, Lauren Mehner, who put a hard volley off the Lancers goalie's hands and into the back of the net.
"It hit me in my stomach, and I was just hoping someone was behind me," Ellis said.
"She made a nice hit on it and had enough pace on it to get it by the keeper," Worley said of Mehner.
Dirnberger had another chance minutes later, and the Bulldogs looked like they would add to the lead.
"We got into a rhythm," Worley said. "You almost didn't want halftime to come. That was the most control of the game we had."
Notre Dame's rhythm was interrupted by a St. Pius counterattack that nearly resulted in a goal. The Lancers intercepted a Notre Dame throw-in and got the ball to forward Shelley Price, who shot just wide past a charging Katie Palmer. The Lancers could not find the back of the net and trailed at halftime 1-0.
The Lancers stepped up the attack in the second half, keeping the Bulldogs buried deep in their own zone.
St. Pius coach Dan Bokern said he told his team to do a better job of winning the loose balls out of halftime.
"I just told them they needed to push it up," he said. "I think we did a much better job of that in the second half."
While the Lancers controlled the possession, Palmer was rarely tested.
"We did a nice job covering for each other," Worley said. "Although they were in our end most of the game, we were able to limit their shots."
Despite possessing the ball nearly the entire second half, Notre Dame continued to frustrate the Lancer offense. St. Pius kept plugging away and kept fans sweating until the final whistle.
Ellis said some of St. Pius' late free kicks from Lancer defender Stacy Giljum had her a little worried.
"No. 7 had a big foot, and she made me really nervous, but we handled it well," she said.
Bokern said in the end his offense just couldn't find a way to score.
"We have a lot of girls who can score, but we just didn't get that golden opportunity today," he said.
The Bulldogs turn their attention to Lutheran South, which defeated St. Elizabeth Academy.
"We know Tuesday is a very winnable game," Worley said.
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