Johnson's fancy footwork pushes Pirates into semis

Sunday, May 17, 2009
Perryville's Abbe Schilli watches her shot go in past diving DeSoto goalie Hanna Jackson during their Class 2 District 1 soccer game Saturday morning, May 16, 2009, at Notre Dame Regional High School. (Kit Doyle)

Bauwens made a save on a breakaway to protect the lead.

Perryville senior Ava Johnson's stutter step and speed sparked the Pirates as they try to repeat as district champions.

Johnson played a pivotal role in setting up her teammates on both goals as Perryville downed DeSoto 2-0 in their Class 2 District 1 girls soccer quarterfinal Saturday at Notre Dame Regional High School.

"It kind of reminds me of basketball," Johnson said of her playmaking. "Since I played basketball for four year, if you're in on a layup and they're getting ready to block my shot since most girls are taller than me, I'm kind of used to pulling and then giving it away, dishing it off. I played varsity sports for four years now, so I'm used to not being the one who scores."

Johnson dribbled down the middle of the field toward the DeSoto goal, drawing the Dragons' defense. But she never stopped scanning the field for an open teammate.

Perryville goalie Natalie Bauwens, center, dives on a ball as several DeSoto players converge during their Class 2 District 1 game Saturday. (Kit Doyle)

"I just try to keep everything in an open look and you have to look at all your options," Johnson said. "I kind of looked in the corner and all of a sudden I see Abbie in this wide run. I'm like, 'OK.' I was going to kick her butt if she did not make that goal."

Sophomore Abbie Schilli streaked wide open off to Johnson's left.

"You look up and you shoot," Schilli said. "I was hoping to put it down and in the corner."

Johnson admitted that she couldn't watch Schilli's shot after the pass.

"After I passed it, I turned around," Johnson said. "I didn't want to see what happened. I just waited to see if it went in."

Perryville's Ava Johnson, left, and DeSoto's Kelsey Tharp struggle for a ball Saturday at Notre Dame Regional High School.

Schilli didn't disappoint as she buried her shot for the 1-0 lead 12 minutes into the second half.

Just over six minutes after Schilli's goal, the Dragons created a golden opportunity. Freshman Kinsley Fitzpatrick broke loose against the Pirates' defense, earning a one-on-one with Perryville goalie Natalie Bauwens. As Fitzpatrick closed, Bauwens came off her line to challenge and managed to deflect away the shot.

"I just knew I had to go out and get it," Bauwens said. "I was just ready for anything. I just watch the ball. As she gets closer to me, I go get it. She shot it at me."

Bauwens wasn't done as the ensuing corner kick landed in front of the goal and Bauwens ended up on the ground. But she flicked it away to preserve the 1-0 lead.

"Natalie has the capability to play to that level," Perryville coach Stacie Sargent said. "She stepped in last year for us when my goalie tore her ACL and took us to the quarterfinals."

Rebecca Hanquist added an insurance goal for the Pirates with 16:09 left in the second half, and the Pirates' defense never allowed the Dragons to threaten again.

The Pirates advanced to face No. 6 seed North County, a 2-1 winner over Farmington, in Wednesday's 5 p.m. semifinal at Notre Dame.

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