Notre Dame's upset bid of No. 1 Pius fails in 2OT

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

The Bulldogs' season ended with a 3-2 loss.

The Notre Dame soccer team came within perhaps an inch of an overtime victory against the state's No. 1 Class 1 soccer team.

Instead, Festus St. Pius scored in the final minutes of the second overtime for a 3-2 victory Tuesday in a state sectional round game at Notre Dame Regional High School.

The Lancers, now 21-1 and atop the latest Missouri Soccer Coaches Association poll, will play 5 p.m. Saturday at the Anheuser-Busch Center in Fenton against Bishop DuBourg (10-14), a team it has beaten three times this season.

Notre Dame (14-10-3) had beaten the Lancers in the sectional the last two seasons.

Last year, St. Pius was 22-1 and had beaten Notre Dame in the regular season before the Bulldogs posted a 2-0 win with Lauren Mehner scoring the first goal.

On Tuesday night, Mehner nearly made history repeat.

St. Pius, which had beaten Notre Dame 3-0 on March 21 in the opening game for both teams, fell behind 2-1 in the first half and didn't tie the game until the 73rd minute.

In the final seconds of the first overtime, Meridith Medlin hit a crossing pass from the right side of the field to a wide-open Mehner on the left side of the goal. She directed a header on goal and a few Notre Dame players began to jump in celebration when the ball hit the crossbar, deflected straight down and was cleared. Notre Dame had another shot in the same flurry that sailed over the goal.

"Lauren has won some big games for us on head balls," Notre Dame coach Jeff Worley said. "This just missed by inches. It hit the crossbar 1 inch lower, it might have gone in."

By comparison, the goal that ended the game started with a harmless restart just inside of the Notre Dame's own end of the field in the final minutes of the second overtime. During St. Pius' attack, the ball found its way to the foot of Becky Mann, who drilled a shot from about 20 yards out on the right side of goal past Notre Dame keeper Laura Muir.

St. Pius coaches and players, including Mann, weren't certain immediately after the game who received credit on the assist.

The junior had scored two goals in the season-opening victory against Notre Dame.

Her goal gave St. Pius coach Dan Bokern, who started the program 15 years ago, his first trip to the quarterfinal round.

"It feels great," Bokern said. "It seems like there's always stuff going on when we come down here. The last two years, it was the day after graduation. I think coming in this year we had more confidence than before."

St. Pius' only loss so far was against Ursuline, ranked No. 2 in the state in Class 2.

The Lancers seemed pleased with their game plan, which produced 16 corner kicks to two for Notre Dame. They scored their two regulation goals off corners.

"That we had that many corners on this big of a field, I thought, was unusual," Bokern said. "It served us well. We were dangerous on the corners. We didn't get many breakaways because they were packing it in."

St. Pius scored on its sixth corner of the first half, in the 23rd minute, by trying something different. Ashley Winkler sent the ball in short to Kristen Schulze for a give-and-go. Winkler received the ball back along the end line and sent the ball in front to forward Breanna Cashel for the game's first goal.

Notre Dame responded with two quick goals.

"We did what we wanted to do," Worley said. "They had only given up a handful of goals, and we wanted to put some pressure on them."

The first Notre Dame goal was scored by Mehner, who took a pass from Kaitlyn Scheeter on the right side of the goal and sent a shot from about 24 yards out perfectly over the outstretched arm of Lancers keeper Catherine Collins with 12:35 to play.

Less than two minutes later, Notre Dame was on the board again with a pretty restart play. Medlin directed a restart kick from just outside the box to Allie Essner, who was on the left side of the box and deflected the ball to Destiny Dirnberger on the right side for the goal.

"Meridith drove the ball a little bit harder than we normally do," Worley said, "but we made a great play getting in front of it and getting the direction."

Worley wanted to be able to keep the pressure on St. Pius in the second half, but the Lancers were able to control play and keep the ball in the Bulldogs' end of the field for much of the half. St. Pius had one stretch of four corner kicks in a row midway through the half.

The practice and the pressure paid off with just 7:25 remaining in the game, when Schulze sent her corner kick into the goal.

"There's a reason they've only lost one game this year," Worley said. "In the second half, they came after us and came after us. They moved one of their big kids [Kelly Strecker] to the backfield and she just kept sending the ball long into our end.

"We didn't get settled with possession. We needed to do more with the ball. We were frustrating them but you can't defend that much. There was too much time in the game."

Muir, a senior who relieved sophomore Claudia Brauss in goal at the end of regulation, made a point-blank save on Cashel early in the first overtime.

Notre Dame had a shot on the goal late that was saved by Collins late in second overtime. The Lancers sent a long ball just over the centerline that resulted in a foul against Notre Dame and set up the winning attack.

"I paid attention to their scores, and at the end of the year, Notre Dame was beating teams they had lost to earlier in the year," Bokern said. "We knew it was going to be a tough game."

Said Worley: "We try to make a progression over the course of the year so we're playing our best soccer at the end.

"I was just so proud of our senior leadership," he added. "Whoever lost was going to be devastated, but our girls enjoy playing together. They enjoy the friendship and the experience. That's as much of what we do as kicking the ball."

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