After knocking off top-seeded Northlake Christian in the regionals round of playoffs, the 17th-seeded Country Day girls soccer team felt like they had a reasonable chance of beating any other team it faced in the Division III postseason.
Pope John Paul II had different plans, however. The Jaguars, the defending Division III state champion and the eight seed this year, defeated the Cajuns 2-0 on Friday afternoon in old Metairie.
Pope John Paul II will face the St. Frederick-St. Thomas Aquinas winner in the semifinals.
Neither team could get much going on offense during the opening minutes of the first half, with the Jaguars attempting two shots and the hosts squeezing off one ball.
In the 18th minute, the stalemate ended. Christina Cutura drove up the left side of the box and crossed back to Bailee Bridges, who was waiting on the far post. Bridges received the ball and knocked a clean shot into the top right corner to give Pope John Paul II (12-4-5) the lead.
“I was in the right place in the right time,” Bridges said. “We had to put them away early.”
In the 31st minute, Country Day’s Larkin Holtzman booted a shot to the PJP II net from 25 yards away, but the ball sailed high. Two minutes later, Lucy Butterbaugh launched a shot that ricocheted off the far post, and fell at the feet of Lindsey Landry. Landry fired a putback toward the Jaguars goal, but it was wide left and PJP maintained its 1-0 lead.
The Jaguars scored again in the 66th minute off a free kick by Cutura. The shot, from about 25 yards along the left sideline, scooted into the bottom of the Cajuns’ goal and gave PJP a 2-0 advantage.
“We knew this would be a tough fight,” said PJP II coach J.B. Mahoney. “(Country Day coach Glenn Benjamin plays the toughest teams in the state. They’re always ready. We knew we needed an early goal, but we really needed that second goal to kind of seal the deal.”
The Jaguars outshot the Cajuns 10-5, but it was the PJP II defense that both coaches credited on Friday.
“(Alexis) Molero was the all-state keeper for us last year,” Mahoney said. “She brings a lot of leadership as a senior. Then when you add a player like Claire Cross on defense — the more pressure you give her, the better she gets.”
Benjamin said his team, coming off the high of beating Northlake Christian days ago, couldn’t bottle that emotion Friday.
“If we had a couple more days, maybe,” Benjamin said. “But no excuses. They were the better team.”
Country Day finished 7-12-4.