Youth had already served the St. Joseph’s Academy soccer team well this season, and it came through again Tuesday evening in the Division I girls playoffs.
Picking up goals from two freshmen and a sophomore, fifth-seeded St. Joseph’s pulled away from No. 12 Baton Rouge High in the second half for a 3-0 regional win.
St. Joseph’s advances to quarterfinal play to face the winner of Wednesday’s regional contest between No. 13 Comeaux and fourth-seeded Mandeville.
St. Joseph’s (18-6-3) played hard-nosed defense throughout, and got the only goal it would need in the 27th minute. Freshman Megan Johnson took a pass in the penalty box from Riley Chustz before finding the back of the net.
In the second half, sophomore Julianne Chastain and freshman Renee Cancienne added late goals.
Baton Rouge (18-7-3) had no answer, and the Redstickers closed out a second win over their District 5 rival this season.
“We played a very tough schedule early in the year. Plus we had injuries and people sick,” SJA coach Stephanie Broussard said. “Then we picked up some momentum when some younger players stepped up. They took some of the starting roles, and really helped the team out.”
One of the injured players was center-back Courtney Lejeune. Her return a month ago helped solidify the St. Joseph’s defense, which limited Baton Rouge to six shots on goal.
“I was hoping for more offensive chances. I thought our youth shined through,” Baton Rouge coach Sheila Achee said. “I thought we would have had a few more chances, but we couldn’t seem to get a rhythm going.”
Baton Rouge High generated seven corner kicks in the first half, but could never crack the Redstickers defense.
St. Joseph’s was also creating chances, and it finally broke through on Johnson’s goal inside the penalty box.
“(Riley) crossed the ball in to me, and I just slipped it into the left corner,” Johnson said. “I thought it was interesting (playing Baton Rouge a third time). They have a good team, but we outhustled them and played really well.”
Chastain added her backbreaking goal in the 64th minute after taking a pass right of the goal. She placed her kick on the left post for a 2-0 St. Joseph’s lead.
Cancienne finished off the scoring in the 78th minute after taking possession in the penalty box. Cancienne broke free from two defenders, and beat keeper Martha Cox for the goal.
“We gave up the late goals trying to push the match,” Achee said. “We were trying to push our offense, and we gave up a little on defense. We gambled a little, but you do what you have to do.”
Cox finished with eight saves against St. Joseph’s, which got off 15 shots during the game.
Defensively, SJA has been solid ever since Lejeune returned to help the Redstickers to a 1-0 win over Dominican on Dec. 30.
“(Lejeune) came in midway through the season after an ACL surgery,” Broussard said. “Getting her back solidified our defense. Everybody moved back to their regular positions, and felt more comfortable.”
It was a comfort zone that carried SJA to a shutout win on Tuesday.