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St. Vincent defense clamps down in run to semis
The Indians have allowed five goals in their last nine games.
PERRYVILLE -- Freshman Kayla Seabaugh doesn't fear repercussions from attacking an opposing player streaking toward her team's goal.
Seabaugh knows teammate Kristin Mattingly will be there to offer help, if needed.
"Knowing that I have someone as fast as Kristin behind me, I can mess up and not worry as much about it," Seabaugh said.
That selfless attitude and trust in each other helped the St. Vincent girls soccer team's defensive unit develop into a force during the season.
"Those girls don't get rattled now," St. Vincent coach Dustin Wengert said. "They understand their roles."
St. Vincent didn't allow a goal in its six Jefferson County Athletic Association games to win the conference crown.
The defense starts with goalie Anne Steele, who recorded 10 shutouts this season. She allowed 19 goals in 19 games.
"She's been the anchor," Wengert said. "There's no fear in that girl. She will come at you kind of like a bull in a china cabinet."
But Steele said it took more than her and the defense to post the shutouts.
"We have a really strong midfield, so it kind of made it a lot easier for our defense players when the ball is kept on the other side of the half," she said. "We have a lot of talent, so it really wasn't that difficult. The defense made sure I didn't really have to touch the ball that much."
The Indians are headed to the Class 1 final four riding a wave of momentum. They won nine consecutive games, outscoring opponents 45-5 over that span. St. Vincent recorded four shutouts, including in its last two games, during the stretch.
"We play a diamond and we're really quick," senior Morgan Moll said. "We have a lot of subs and everyone's pretty equal. We don't get tired real fast. We have a lot of depth.
"We've been playing together for a long time. All our defenders I've known since I was little. We're fast. We all have pretty good ballhandling skills."
The defense doesn't limit its influence to keeping the ball out of its own net. Wengert encourages his defenders to push up into the offensive end whenever an opportunity presents itself.
"It makes it really fun because even if we don't score, we can create things by passing it down to the deep corner because we know our team is fast enough to get down there," junior Amanda Wengert said. "We switch fields a lot and we can create open spaces by doing that and just sliding up to the midfield."
Seabaugh leads the defensive unit with six goals and five assists, while Wengert scored twice with one assist.
"When we cross their half, I need to push up," Seabaugh said. "If there's the long-ball play, then I can just bust my butt to get back."
When the Indians' defenders do join the offensive attack, communication becomes more important. The players must make sure they don't allow the opponent to counterattack with a breakaway.
"The communication between whoever has been back there has been fantastic, directing each other to make sure we don't have many people run free," coach Wengert said.
The Indians said the communication has come from years of playing together.
"We've been playing together since we were little kids," Amanda Wengert said. "We just know each other is going to be there for each other."
St. Vincent will need the defense to continue stonewalling opposing teams while adding a little help offensively as it chases its first state title, beginning Friday against St. Pius of Kansas City. The Indians say they're ready for the challenge.
"I'm pretty confident in our defense," Moll said.