By John Lachmann
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Although Notre Dame has had wider winning margins this season, the Pandas put on one of their most dominating displays in their state quarterfinal on Saturday.
The defending state champions blanked South Laurel, 4-0 at Lexington Lafayette, forcing Cardinals sophomore goalkeeper Charity Humfleet to record 18 saves.
“We definitely really had everything together tonight,” senior striker Ellie Eckerle said. “We had great (pass) connections, ball work on the ground – we really clicked tonight and that’s very necessary at this point in the season.”
Pandas senior goalie Olivia Voskuhl did not stop a shot before being lifted midway through the second half. Her replacement, senior Nikki Zembrodt, grabbed a weak dribbler with 15 minutes left for Notre Dame’s only save.
A shot by junior midfielder Maddie Tierney hit the post and ricocheted to Eckerle for a tap-in goal after less than seven minutes into the match to give the Pandas an early lead.
Notre Dame senior midfielder Erica Meier sent a ball into the box that pinballed to senior striker Katy Zembrodt, who deposited it in the net with 10:32 remaining in the first half to give her team a two-goal cushion.
The Pandas extended their lead to three in the 57th minute when senior defender Alex Lonnemann’s corner found senior Jamie Bramlage for a header that Humfleet was unable to cover before it crossed the endline.
Senior midfielder Hannah VonHandorf sealed the match on a header from senior midfielder Katherine Koplyay with 9:43 remaining to make it 4-0.
Notre Dame, which has won 16 straight matches and is unbeaten in its last 18 (17-0-1), has outscored its opponents, 25-1 in its seven postseason wins.
When the Pandas won the state title last season, they netted 40 goals in eight playoff matches and allowed just four.
“They’re two totally different teams, two totally different personalities,” Notre Dame coach Sara McSorley said. “So I think there were a lot of expectations on last year’s team, and I think this year they’ve put a lot of expectations on themselves, and I think that every game they’re trying to prove that they deserve to be at the next level, and I think that’s the main difference.”
Many of the juniors on Notre Dame’s 2011 championship team are now seniors, and McSorley pointed out that all four goals in this match were scored by that class.
“People may not remember that we had a lot of juniors on last year’s team, and so they are really wanting to make this year their own,” McSorley said.
The Pandas advance to the state semifinals and will face Elizabethtown at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at Lexington Paul Dunbar.
“It’s such an incredible feeling,” said Eckerle about heading back to the state semifinals. “You really have to live in the moment because sometimes there’s so much going on. You have to value every single game, every play, every single minute of the game.”
HALFTIME: 2-0. GOALS: ND—Eckerle, K. Zembrodt, Bramlage, VonHandorf. SHUTOUT: Voskuhl and N. Zembrodt (1 save). RECORDS: Notre Dame 23-2-1, South Laurel 15-7-1.
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