PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- Lofty expectations greeted St. Vincent after winning last year's Class 1 state title with only three seniors.
The pressure to repeat was a welcomed addition for this year's Indians team.
"I think last year we didn't know what to expect," senior Rachel Sutterer said. "This year, we have a standard we want to meet. We know what we expect. It's just a matter of us pushing ourselves again.
"We want to leave on a good note and we don't want to know how second place feels."
The Indians are two wins away from repeating as state champions. But one of their toughest tests of the season awaits in today's semifinal at the Anheuser-Busch Center in Fenton, Mo. St. Vincent, the top-ranked team in the state, faces Springfield Catholic, ranked No. 2, at noon.
"They've been chasing us," St. Vincent coach Dustin Wengert said. "To me, the motivation I've been using, this is the one team that I honestly think can beat us."
Catholic boasts an 18-4-1 record and is riding an eight-game winning streak. It hasn't allowed a goal during the streak.
"From what I understand, they are very good up the middle," Wengert said. "From what I've been told, 80 to 85 percent of their play is through the middle, which is really interesting because 80 to 85 percent of our game is to the outside. I think the team that is able to establish their style and make the other team play their style will probably come out to be the victor."
The Indians hope to benefit from their familiarity with their surroundings. They won the state title at the A-B Center last year and advanced to this year's final four with a victory there in the quarterfinals.
"It gives us a comfort zone," senior Allison Ernst said. "We love that field."
But Catholic also is familiar with the final four atmosphere. It reached last year's final four but lost to Trinity in the semifinals before rebounding to beat St. Pius of Kansas City 4-0 in the third-place game.
Catholic features a balanced scoring attack. Junior Shelby Hatz leads the Irish with 19 goals, while sophomore Rebekah Bade added 14. They are the only two with double-digit goals.
Catholic allowed 11 goals and posted 17 shutouts this season. Its last loss came April 24, a 3-1 setback to Lee's Summit West.
St. Vincent boasts four players with at least 10 goals, although Kayla Seabaugh, who has 10 goals, is injured. Sophomore Abby Lappe leads the way with 26. Sophomore Storm French is next with 23 goals and 14 assists.
"It's not that I try to score, like I try to be the one," French said. "If I see somebody open, I'll give them the ball and let them have a fair shot too. I don't want it to be just me."
St. Vincent enters on a 10-game winning streak, and Wengert said the first 10 minutes of today's game should serve as a telling sign if the streak will continue.
"We've got to establish a chemistry amongst our girls in the first five or 10 minutes," he said. "We can't go up and be the nervous ones. We talked today about last year we were excited. We were nervous. We had a desire. We didn't know what it took. Now we have the one thing that may be the great equalizer and that's the experience of being there. We have to use our experience to the fullest."
The winner of today's game will face the winner of Trinity Catholic vs. Barstow at 4 p.m. Saturday for the title. The losers of the two games will play for third place at 10 a.m. Saturday.