Notre Dame to face St. Pius in a Class 1 sectional contest

Saturday, May 22, 2004

Southeast Missourian

The Notre Dame girls soccer team hopes today's Class 1 sectional game against Festus St. Pius yields the same result as last year's meeting.

The Bulldogs defeated the Lancers 1-0 en route to a runner-up finish in Class 1.

But this time, St. Pius carries a 22-1 record into the clash, set for 2 p.m. at Notre Dame. Among the 22 wins is a win earlier this year against Notre Dame.

"I knew we were going to be good," St. Pius coach Dan Bokern said, "but we've passed my expectations. It's been a fantastic year."

St. Pius, which has lost only to Fox this year, has racked up 110 goals and allowed nine. Three of the team's top scorers from last year return -- junior Breanna Cashel has 16 goals, sophomore Jessica Whorton has 13 and senior Allison Wagner has 12. But the Lancers have been led in scoring by freshman Casey Robinson, an Olympic Development Program selection who has 25 goals.

The gaudy resume does not faze Notre Dame coach Jeff Worley, whose team is 17-4-2.

"St. Pius has taken on a lot of teams and done very well," Worley said, "and we've played some top 10 teams in the state -- not just in Class 1 but also Class 2 -- and done very well against all teams.

"They're probably one of the more athletic teams we've played. They're very quick and pretty much come right after you. They play more direct than we do, and we'll probably possess the ball more. We'll need to keep the play in front of us.

"The night we lost to them we had a lot of good chances to score but couldn't finish."

Finishing just once may be enough today. Notre Dame won a pair of 1-0 decisions last year against St. Pius, including the sectional showdown. The Lancers have returned the favor this year in the regular season.

"If you get a chance, you have to put it away," Bokern said. "I think what most people see is that we've got six people who can score on the forward line and some backs can come up and score, too. It's hard to know which players to mark."

Defense is a keyNotre Dame sweeper Emily Buehrle and her backfield mates will have to continue their stingy play.

"When we played them early this year, we had like 14 shots," Bokern said, "and we've been getting close to 50 shots."

Notre Dame counters offensively with junior Lauren Mehner, who has16 goals to lead the Bulldogs. She scored two in the 4-0 district championship victory against St. Vincent. Seniors Amanda Dirnberger and Sierra Ellis are key parts of the attack, while freshmen Destiny Dirnberger and Meredith Medlin have combined for 14 goals.

"We're playing our best soccer right now," Worley said. "One of the really nice things is how balanced we are. We're really starting to play as a team."

The winner of today's match will advance to a state quarterfinal game scheduled for 5 p.m. Tuesday at the Anheuser-Busch Center in Fenton, Mo.

"It should be a really even, really entertaining game," Worley said. "I feel really good about our chances. At this time of the year, with as many players as we have with experience, they're used to this. They know what it takes to keep going.

"They know what time it is."

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