Country Day knew if it was going to beat Pope John Paul II, it couldn’t let Marlena Cutura go wild on offense as she has done to so many opponents, so many times this year.
The Cajuns clamped down on defense, and stopped the LSU commitment from scoring in a nondistrict, playoff tune-up Thursday.
The result was a 2-1 victory for Country Day at Pope John Paul II’s Lester Latino Field.
Pope John Paul II was ranked second in the latest LHSAA Division IV unofficial power rankings. Country Day was eighth.
“It’s really difficult (having to shadow Cutura),” said Country Day senior defender Lindsey Durant. “She’s a really good player. My teammates are what helped me. I would challenge her, and she would get around. Another teammate would come in to put pressure. It was really a team effort; recovering, getting back, keeping our energy up, and not letting her have space.”
Cutura had plenty chances on goal, but the defensive pressure kept her from scoring.
“We’ve been focused on getting ready for teams like this,” Country Day coach Glenn Benjamin said. “Marlena plays for my club (team), so I know what (the Jaguars) bring. We had to shut her down and play our game.”
Both teams came out firing in the opening seconds. Cutura whirled for a shot in the second minute that sailed wide, and a moment later, the Cajuns’ Christina Wong drove the right side, but just missed the net with her shot.
After those early looks, both teams settled and battled for possession on both sides of the field. It appeared the Jaguars might take control of momentum, as they attempted four additional shots before the 20-minute mark. The best of those came when Cutura spun for a left-footed shot in the box that glanced just off the crossbar.
But none of the Jaguars 11 shots on goal in the half found the net.
Country Day had its chances too, with three decent looks in the final 10 minutes. But the Cajuns couldn’t score on any of their five attempts on goal before halftime.
Finally in the 46th minute, a shot fell for PJP (13-3-1).
From the right corner, Cutura knocked a ball to the middle of the Country Day box. Kylie Milligan gathered it and fired for the net, but the shot hit the crossbar. Aubrie Spring was in position for the clean-up, though, and her ball found the back of the net and a 1-0 lead.
The Cajuns tied the game in the 61st minute when a corner kick by Kathleen Kelleher slipped into the Jaguars’ net. In the 66th minute, Country Day (9-8-3) took the lead for good on a goal by Mandy Friedlander off a corner kick, Benjamin said.
The Cajuns outshot Pope John Paul II 7-5 in the second half.
“They got two set piece goals which hurt us,” PJP II coach J.B. Mahoney said. “We’ll work on it. But this loss is a loss I’ll take, because I’d rather lose it here than later in the playoffs.”