The annual matchup between the Newman and Pope John Paul II girls’ soccer teams doesn’t decide district titles, but it’s almost always as fierce as any game that does.
This year’s game went in favor of the Jaguars.
Pope John Paul II, which both tied and defeated the Greenies last season, notched a 2-1, nondistrict win on a sunny Saturday morning at Newman’s Lupin Field.
The game almost certainly will have playoff seeding implications. PJP is fourth in the most recent LHSAA Division IV power rankings. Newman is sixth in Division IV.
The difference in this match, as it is in so many of the Jaguars’ contests, was Marlena Cutura. The junior stalwart faced intense defensive pressure for 80 minutes; including some double teams. Still, she was able to tally both PJP goals against a Newman team that matched nicely with the Jags.
“I just had to keep working and move off of the defenders,” Cutura said. “My teammates were able to find me some great opportunities for shots, despite all the pressure.”
PJP II coach J.B. Mahoney continues to marvel at Cutura’s ability to take over a game when needed.
“Whenever we play Newman, it’s a one-goal game,” Mahoney said. “So we needed (Marlena) to do what she did today. She got only two really clean chances, and she finished them both.”
The teams both vied for possession in the early stages of the first half, and each managed a shot on goal. But then PJP II (11-2-1) emerged.
It started in the 14th minute, Cutura found a crease along the right side of the Newman box, and then angled a shot toward goal. A hard-charging McKenzie Cummins came out of the Greenies’ goal to stop the shot, but it bumped off the near post and found the back of the net for a 1-0 Jaguars lead.
Newman (8-5-1) was undeterred, though, and fired back with a deep shot by sophomore Barret Williams in the 24th minute. But the ball caromed off the Jaguars crossbar, and maintained the 1-0 margin.
The teams were evenly matched on shots (five apiece) heading into halftime.
After the break, PJP II squeezed off three quick shots, but none found their mark. Newman did even the score in 56th minute when Frances Sperling rolled through the box and drilled a ball into net to tie the game at 1.
But then it was Cutura’s turn to shine again. In the 64th minute, she spun around a defender at the top of the Newman box and booted a left-footed shot to the top left corner.
Mahoney also praised the play of eighth-grade goalie Ansley Tullis, who in her first start in net played impressively against Newman. That included defense of a late flurry of shots the Greenies attempted to try to knot the score at 2.
“I felt a little nervous in there,” Tullis said. “But my defenders are so good, they helped me a lot.”
Newman 7, Pope John Paul II 0: The Greenies’ relentless offensive attack proved to be too much for the Jaguars in a nondistrict game Saturday at Lupin Field.
Junior Evan DeBlanc scored four goals in the first half to blow the game open for Newman — the second-ranked team in the LHSAA Division IV power rankings.
DeBlanc’s initial score came in the first minute when he streaked down the right side and booted a shot into an open goal. He scored again in the 12th, 36th, and 38th minutes to give Newman (8-2-3) a commanding lead.
The Greenies outshot the Jags 18-0 in the first half, and 29-2 in the game. Newman scored again in the 54th, 55th, and 73rd minutes.
“This wasn’t district, but it was a division game, still, and we wanted to come out fast today,” DeBlanc said. “We have some big games ahead of us, but we really think we have what it takes to make a run in the playoffs and win the finals.”
“I’m really happy with the way we came out and started quickly,” Newman coach Matt Jacques said.
PJP II (8-10) came into the game listed 17th in the LHSAA Division IV power rankings.