Rebels stifle Notre Dame's offense in quarterfinals

Sunday, May 27, 2007
Notre Dame's Destiny Dirnberger sent a crossing pass upfield during her team's state quarterfinal game Saturday.

The Bulldogs managed just one goal late in the second half.

FENTON, Mo. -- During Notre Dame's 14-2-1 regular season, the Bulldogs also lost a few games due to bad weather, including contests against Class 2 quarterfinalist Rockwood Summit, Ville Duchesne and St. Louis Notre Dame.

The Bulldogs wished they would have had the chance to play those contests, especially after getting on the field with St. Louis Notre Dame for the first time Saturday.

The Bulldogs fell 3-1 to the Rebels, who won their ninth straight game and improved to 14-9-1.

"Those are games you like to play and be tested a little bit," Bulldogs coach Jeff Worley said. "I think we're at a point where we can compete with most teams in the state, and so we welcome the competition."

Destiny Dirnberger (5) collided with Notre Dame St. Louis goalie Renee Kertz during their quarterfinal game Saturday at the Anheuser-Busch complex in Fenton, Mo. (Kit Doyle)

The Rebels' schedule included tests against some of the state's -- and possibly the nation's -- best teams. Playing in the Metro Women's Athletic Association with the likes of Nerinx Hall, St. Joseph's Academy and Incarnate Word, the Rebels were 0-4 in league play.

But on Saturday, that didn't matter.

The Rebels scored just 7 minutes into the contest and added two second-half goals before the Bulldogs got on the board.

Both teams had chances, but the Rebels finished while keeper Renee Kertz stopped the Bulldogs' opportunities over the first 74 minutes.

"Renee was outstanding," Rebels coach Jeff Robben said. "The two saves she made in the first half were game-changing saves. She kept us cool and calm back there."

Notre Dame's Meridith Medlin got off a shot Saturday during the Bulldogs' 3-1 loss to Notre Dame St. Louis at the Anheuser-Busch complex in Fenton, Mo. (Kit Doyle)

The saves came a little more than midway through the first half, first when Destiny Dirnberger took a pass from Jordan Radetic near the goal and later when Courtney Luehmann had a shot off a restart after Radetic had been fouled.

Dirnberger also fired a shot wide of the goal as time expired in the first half.

"I thought early on our possessions were very good, and we were getting the ball where we needed to," Worley said. "We got a little nervous at times and rushed some of the chances we got. Some plays we probably passed a little earlier than we would have liked."

The Bulldogs' nerves may have come from falling behind.

The Rebels scored on their first good chance of the game as Michelle Spencer, on the right side, took a pass from Sam Lang. Spencer found some room, made a move and fired a shot past Shelley Frank.

Courtney Luehmann connected on a header for the Bulldogs' only goal during their quarterfinal loss Saturday in Fenton, Mo.

"That was huge, especially against a team like Cape Notre Dame," Robben said. "We had an idea what to expect from them, that they were dangerously strong in the midfield, and we felt we could attack them with width."

Worley noted the Rebels' penchant for attacking the left side of the Bulldogs' midfield.

"They were cheating players up," Worley said. "We defended that pretty well, but their first goal came from that.

"It was a battle of the outside midfielders really. As much trouble as they gave us on one side of the midfield, I thought Taylor Sanders had a great game on the other side. She was every bit as dangerous."

The Bulldogs did continue to threaten in the second half. Meridith Medlin sent a pass to Luehmann, who was stopped by Kertz about 10 minutes into the second half. The Bulldogs had their first corner kick of the game 11 minutes later, but a weak header was stopped by Kertz.

Notre Dame's Meridith Medlin wiped away tears while shaking hands with opposing players Saturday.

About 2 1/2 minutes later, at the 65-minute mark, Robyn Meesey scored for the Rebels with an assist by Sam Nuernberger.

The Rebels scored another insurance goal with 8 minutes to go to make the score 3-0. Meesey fed Michelle Seier, who struck a nice ball into the top left corner of the goal.

Frank had no chance to stop it. She ended the day with seven saves.

The Bulldogs finally did finish with 5:24 remaining when Luehmann scored on a header. She was assisted by Dirnberger, who fired in a crossing pass about 30 seconds after sending the ball in on a corner kick.

Luehmann forced another save with a shot in the final 5 minutes.

"Both teams had been on such a good run, when you got behind, somebody was going to get shocked, and we got shocked a little bit," Worley said. "We haven't had to play from behind for quite a while so getting that feeling to try to keep from panicking and changing everything you do, you have to kind of fight your way out of it."

The Bulldogs hadn't lost in 13 games, putting together a 12-0-1 spree. They finished 17-3-1.

They will graduate nine seniors.

"It's always difficult when you lose that last game," Worley said. "This group did a tremendous job making everyone feel like they were part of the team."

Notre Dame players tried to console each other after they fell to Notre Dame St. Louis on Saturday.
Notre Dame coach Jeff Worley addressed the team after its quarterfinal loss in Fenton, Mo.
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