Notre Dame, O'Hara take familiar paths in title hunt

Friday, May 30, 2003

The schools' boys teams blazed state trails in the fall.

Now the Notre Dame and O'Hara girls soccer teams are following the freshly trampled paths.

Those paths cross tonight in the Class 1 semifinals at the Anheuser Busch Conference & Soccer Centre in Fenton.

Notre Dame (22-2-1) will take on O'Hara (21-8) of Kansas City at 6 p.m. with the winner advancing to Saturday's 2 p.m. championship.

The schools have similarities beyond easy quarterfinal victories on Tuesday. Notre Dame, ranked fifth, struck for all its goals in the first half of a 3-0 win over Lutheran South, while O'Hara, ranked sixth, scored four of its goals in the first half in a 5-0 victory over St. Pius X of Kansas City.

Both schools' boys teams reached the semifinals in the fall, with Notre Dame reaching that level for the first time on its way to the Class 2 state championship. Both girls teams are following suit with maiden trips to the final four.

Prior to this year, Notre Dame's girls never reached the district championship game. O'Hara also won its first district title under Jerry Dickey.

"We want to enjoy the weekend," Notre Dame coach Jeff Worley said. "We want to get two wins, but this is an experience the players will remember for the rest of their lives. The last thing we want to do is get too tense and take fun out of being there. I think they'll play better if they let it all hang out."

O'Hara also breezed to a 4-0 victory in the sectional round.

"We're coming with the intention of bringing everything we have," said Dickey, who will retire after the season. "We just hope it's enough."

The winner will have a spot in the state title game against either No. 3 John Burroughs (17-6) or No. 9 Springfield Catholic (18-7), who play in the other semifinal.

Notre Dame and O'Hara, on opposite sides of the state, know little about each other.

"When you get to this point you know teams are going to have quality goal scorers up top and move the ball around pretty well," Worley said. "When you get to the final four you're going to see three pretty good teams."

Senior forward Sophia Sharkey scored three of O'Hara's goals in the quarterfinals. According to Dickey, Sharkey has more than 150 goals in her career and about 50 this season. She was all-state as a junior and is headed to Rockhurst University on a soccer scholarship. Sophomore teammate Marcy Gans, all-state as a freshman, already has about 90 career goals.

Notre Dame also got a big quarterfinal performance from its leading scorer, junior Sierra Ellis. Ellis extended her school record to 24 goals and later assisted on two others.

Katie Palmer also built on her own school with her 16th shutout.

Ellis, Palmer and several other Bulldogs were members of Notre Dame's basketball teams that finished first and second in the state the past two years.

"They've seen this before and kind of have an idea what the atmosphere will be like," Worley said. "Hopefully that will help."

O'Hara won a state championship in volleyball in the fall. O'Hara goalie Kally Metzler starred for the volleyball team before deciding to try out for soccer her senior season.

All of O'Hara's losses have come to larger schools.

"I think we're very good for class we're in," Dickey said. "But we haven't made the breakthrough yet to what I call the top-echelon teams."

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