When teams are built for speed, there’s nothing like a daylong thunderstorm to slow them down.
But don’t tell that to the Pope John Paul II girls soccer team.
Though the Jaguars probably couldn’t utilize their speed to the fullest Monday in a Division IV home quarterfinal against Ascension Episcopal, they did manage to slog through the sloppy conditions at Lester Latino Field, splashing across the field in search for shots.
When the mud stopped flying, second-seeded PJP remained standing.
The Jaguars scored three first-half goals and cruised to a 7-2 victory over seventh-seeded Ascension Episcopal in Slidell.
The Jaguars advanced to play district rival (and third seed) Hannan in a semifinal. The cross-parish Hawks, who lost to PJP twice this season, are the only team remaining between the Jaguars and a third consecutive state final appearance.
Pope John Paul II’s best shot of the early going came in the 11th minute when Brooke Cutura laced a point-blank shot toward the goal that landed just left of the net. The Jaguars eventually found their ice-breaker in the 13th minute when Aubrie Spring collected a ball in the Ascension Episcopal box and knocked it into the bottom right corner for a 1-0 lead.
Pope John Paul II (15-4-1) moved its lead to 2-0 in the 27th minute when Marlena Cutura slipped a long-range shot underneath the Gators goalie. The LSU verbal commitment tallied again three minutes later when she knocked another goal into net for a 3-0 lead.
Ascension Episcopal got on the board in the 39th minute when Sarah Beadle slid a ball into the left corner of the Jags’ net. Pope John Paul II outshot the Gators 10-4 in the first half and 15-6 overall.
Cutura scored her third goal in the 55th minute when she curled a left-footed shot into the right corner of the Gators’ goal. Ascension Episcopal (15-2-3) got the score right back when Beadle drove the right sideline and fired a ball to the far left post.
Not to be outdone, Cutura aimed yet again for the Gators’ goal, only to have the ball deflected to the feet of Kylie Milligan. The eighth-grader was there for the rebound, the goal and a 5-2 PJP lead.
Thirty seconds later, Spring scored from 25 yards to increase the Jaguars’ lead to four. Milligan joined Spring with two goals apiece in the final minutes to close scoring.
“We definitely at first were kind of psyched out and were worried about the pitch,” Marlena Cutura said. “But it really wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. We were able to play through it. We knew we had to get some early goals, but we played more direct because you really can’t pass in this slush.”
Gators coach Adrian Boyle said the conditions didn’t affect his team too greatly, but Pope John Paul II did.
“They’re very good, and we knew that coming in,” Boyle said. “They definitely were much better than us this evening.”
PJP II coach J.B. Mahoney said his team will have to continue playing at a high level to knock off Hannan for a third time.
“I like playing against them,” he said. “They’re well coached. It should be a real cracker of a game.”
PJP will host that semifinal, probably on Friday, Mahoney said.