Notre Dame girls soccer coach Jeff Worley decided to shake things up with his team trailing 1-0 and about 15 minutes remaining in Saturday's championship game of the Noon Optimist Tournament against Central.
He sacrificed a defender to put an extra player up top.
The move paid off immediately, as the Bulldogs tied the game with about 14 minutes left. Notre Dame carried the momentum through the rest of the game, pouring in two more goals to take home the championship 3-1 at Notre Dame.
"Our passing got better the second half, but we still weren't getting the looks we wanted to have," Worley said. "We removed a defender and put in three forwards. It was a few minutes after we did that the play shifted."
The tying goal came from Erica Ruopp off a corner kick. Mindy Siebert picked up the assist. Notre Dame forward Meridith Medlin had gotten off a dangerous cross just minutes before the corner kick, and play seemed to be shifting the Bulldogs' way.
Worley called for all of his players to come forward for the kick, and the Bulldogs were able to capitalize.
"Being down a goal, we sent everyone up trying to take advantage of secondary balls," Worley said. "Once it hits the ground, the team going at the goal has the advantage."
Notre Dame went back to its original formation following the goal, but its offense continued to put pressure on Central. Medlin created the next chance for the Bulldogs, drawing a foul deep in Central territory.
Kaitlyn Scheeter was on the receiving end of the free kick, and took a shot on goal. Central goalie Chelsea Burns appeared in position to make the save, but the ball went right through her legs and Notre Dame went ahead 2-1. Medlin picked up the assist.
Scheeter, who was steady in the backfield throughout the first half when Central controlled play, had moved to the midfield late in the game for the Bulldogs.
"Kaitlyn Scheeter, one of our senior defenders, when we made the shift, she moved up to the midfield and sparked us," Worley said.
The Bulldogs put the game out of reach on a shot from freshman Alex Fowler from about 24 feet out with less than 3 minutes remaining. Siebert assisted on the goal, which came off a corner kick. Burns made the initial save off the corner, but was caught out of position when the ball came to Fowler.
"All three of the goals were on free kicks," Central coach Tom Doyle said. "If you're going to give up those fouls, you have to play better against the free kicks."
Medlin was extremely active up top for the Bulldogs in the second half, challenging the Tigers defenders to stay with her.
"She has worked extremely hard," Worley said. "She's a presence out there. She raised her level of play as the game went along. She's difficult to handle."
Central, which finished the tournament with just three goals in three games, seemed to be in control of the game through the first 60 minutes of play. The Tigers moved the ball well in the first half, using one- and two-touch passes to move up and down the field.
Sarah Uptmor put the Tigers on top 1-0 with about 11 minutes remaining in the first half on a lofting shot over Notre Dame goalie Claudia Brauss. Lee Thomas had the assist.
Doyle said even though his team did not have much offense on Saturday, the Tigers did at least put some shots at the net.
"I thought today we did a good job shooting when we had opportunities," he said. "The other two days, I didn't think we shot enough when we had opportunities."
Central will move from one rival to another, with its next game Tuesday at Jackson.
"Any time you win two out of three and play in the championship game, you can't complain too much," Doyle said. "We didn't get the championship, but it was a closer game than the 3-1 score."
Notre Dame was able to take home the tournament title while showing off its depth over the weekend. The Bulldogs used 20 players each of the first two games and nearly that many on Saturday.
Those substitutions may have played a part in Notre Dame scoring five second-half goals over the final two games.
"We try to play a lot of players," Worley said. "We played 20 players the first two nights, and played close to that many today. I think we were a lot fresher thanks to that."
Chelsea Marr scored the game-winning goal to cap Perryville's comeback from a 1-0 halftime deficit.
Ashley Reid had the other goal for the Pirates (2-1) with an assist from Jocelyn Moll.
Courtney Besand scored in the first half for St. Vincent (1-2) with an assist from Shelby Hotopp.