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Jackson hosts state's top-ranked team in sectional
Unbeaten St. Joseph's also is ranked No. 4 in a national coaches poll.
The top-ranked girls soccer team in the state will hit the field in Jackson for tonight's Class 2 sectional.
Unfortunately for Jackson fans, the host squad is not the one that carries the impressive ranking.
The Indians (16-6-2) will host No. 1 St. Joseph's Academy (21-0-1) in a 6 p.m. game tonight.
St. Joseph's Academy is ranked No. 1 in the Missouri Soccer Coaches Association poll and No. 1 in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch large schools poll. Even more impressive, the Angels are ranked No. 4 nationally according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
"I think everyone in the St. Louis area expects us to lose, but you know they have to come down here and play on our home field," Jackson coach Zack Walton said. "We have some pluses going for us."
Jackson is used to playing as the underdog in the sectional round, typically paired against a St. Louis-area squad. The Indians, winners of five straight district titles, are 1-3 in the sectional round during their current streak. In those games, the Indians have not lost by more than two goals.
"We've played right with those St. Louis teams the last five years," Walton said. "I think we've proven we can play with them if we come out and play our best."
This will be the second postseason meeting between Jackson and St. Joseph's Academy girls teams this school year. In the girls basketball sectionals, the private school from Frontenac, Mo., routed the Indians.
"We don't have anything to lose," Walton said. "The pressure's not going to be on us. We want to try to keep it a close game and see what happens."
Indians sophomore Lauren Drewett and freshman Bobbi Jo Schlick have taken up the scoring void left by departed star Molly Hartmann this season. Drewett and Schlick lead Jackson with 14 goals apiece.
Defensively, senior goalie Kylie Werner leads the area with 10 shutouts this season. In 25 games, the Indians have surrendered just 17 goals. Of those 17 goals against, more than a third were scored in a 6-0 loss to Cor Jesu during the opening weekend of the season.
In the same tournament in which Jackson lost to Cor Jesu, the Indians held Illinois power Granite City to just one goal in a 1-0 loss. Granite City this season provided the only blemish on St. Joseph's record with a 1-1 tie.
St. Joseph's Academy has allowed just five goals all season. Offensively, Becky Handley leads a balanced offense with 11 goals. Stephanie Johnson and Maggie Farrell have 10 goals apiece.
"We've done some good things, proven we can play those kind of schools," Walton said. "We have to play our best. This is definitely one of those nights we have to be on top of our games. We need to play our best game to play with these girls."
Pirates in JCC rematch
In Class 1, Perryville will face a familiar foe as it tries to improve on its most successful postseason to date.
The Pirates will play conference foe Festus, Mo., St. Pius X at 6:30 p.m. tonight at Notre Dame Regional High School in a sectional game.
This is the first sectional appearance for the Pirates (15-8-1). Perryville defeated St. Vincent 2-1 in overtime to claim the Class 1 District 1 crown.
"At this point, we're somewhere no one in Perryville's ever been," Pirates coach Stacie Sargent said. "This is all such a blessing. We're so fortunate to be here. Our district's one of the toughest to come out of.
"I just think we're going to take every opportunity we're given and go with it. I think we have a great chance."
Perryville clinched a share of the Jefferson County Conference title with a 2-0 win over St. Pius a little more than two weeks ago. St. Pius also lost regular season games against Notre Dame and St. Vincent.
"We're trying to approach it like we did the opponents at district," Sargent said. "When you play someone you've played before, it can be a benefit or the scariest thing in the world. We want to approach it like an advantage since we have the win over them."
St. Pius (16-9) is making its fourth consecutive sectional appearance. Last year, the Lancers defeated Notre Dame 3-2 in double overtime before falling in penalty kicks in the quarterfinals.
Carrie Stone is the top offensive threat for St. Pius, with 17 goals and nine assists. Jessica Whorton leads the Lancers with 12 assists.
Perryville has generated plenty of offense itself this season, led by senior Amber Hacker. Hacker has nine goals and 11 assists. Sophomore Chelsey Marr has 12 goals for the Pirates.
The Pirates have a rotation containing mostly underclassmen. Perryville has just two seniors on its roster.
Being the team closer to its home could provide some advantage.
"We've had great support, and it sounds like we'll have a good crowd," Sargent said. "The girls appreciate all the support they've been given."