By Dan Wright
UNION, Ky. – Coming off a state championship last season, Notre Dame asserted itself as the top team in the 9th Region during the 2012 regular season, leading all teams in the region in both most goals scored and fewest goals allowed.
The Pandas continued that trend in the 9th Region semifinals Wednesday at Ryle’s Cecil R. Borland Stadium, shutting out Dixie Heights, 3-0, to advance to Saturday’s final.
The Pandas became only the second team to hold the defending 9th Region champions without a goal all year by pressuring the Colonels with their offense, allowing only six shots on goal.
“With Dixie we had to start our defense with our front line,” Notre Dame head coach Sara McSorley said. “We had to make sure we pressured all around to make sure they didn’t get any balls through the Nemo (sophomore Lauren Nemeroff) or (senior Ali) Critcher sprinting on, because they’re fast.”
Notre Dame countered by peppering Dixie Heights senior goalkeeper Erin Snyder with 18 shots on goal, breaking through for the first goal of the game with 17:07 left in the first half when sophomore Mandy Arnzen cleaned up a ball in front of the net off an assist from senior Erica Meier.
It was Arnzen’s 11th goal of the season, five of which have come in the postseason.
“We definitely knew she had it in her, but I think she just caught fire in the postseason,” McSorley said.
Meier factored in on another goal in the second half when she served a cross from the right corner of the 18-yard box that senior Katherine Koplyay placed into the left side of the net for her fifth goal of the season with 28:07 left in the game.
It was the Pandas third goal, after a 30-minute lightning delay halted play with 20:33 remaining, that seemed to please McSorley the most.
“It was a whole new ballgame and that momentum could have gone either way after that,” McSorley said. “It was key.”
Notre Dame managed to keep its intensity up after the layoff to strike again when freshman Libby Greenwell served in a throw in from midfield that leading scorer Ellie Eckerle ran up on and eventually drove into the right side of the net with 13:34 remaining, Eckerle’s 17th goal on the year.
All the while, the Colonels were rarely able to get a ball through to Notre Dame senior Olivia Voskuhl, who needed to make just four saves to record her sixth solo shutout of the season.
The Pandas now have a three-day wait to play in the 9th Region championship game, awaiting the winner of today’s match between St. Henry and Newport Central Catholic.
Although her team will get an extra day to rest and scout its next opponent, McSorley isn’t sure how much that will be an advantage when Saturday’s final kicks off at 3 p.m. at Ryle.
“I think it’s nice to have the win behind us and watch to see who we play, but it’s postseason.” McSorley said. “Everybody turns it on.”
HALFTIME: 1-0. GOALS: ND—Arnzen, Koplyay, Eckerle. SHUTOUT: Voskuhl (4 saves). RECORDS: Notre Dame 21-2-1, Dixie Heights 15-6-1.
Top Sports Headlines
At its game on Thursday night, the first one-thousand Florence Freedom fans through the gates will get an empty box labeled "Lennay Kekua."