When the Pope John Paul II and Newman girls soccer teams met in last year’s Division III state championship, it was a tight match that the Jaguars eventually won by one goal.
On Saturday afternoon in a nondistrict postseason tune-up, the stakes were not as high, but the competition was.
Two of the state’s top squads battled gamely, and they played to a 1-1 tie at Pope John Paul II’s Lester Latino Field in Slidell.
Pope John Paul II sophomore Claire Cross scored in the 35th minute went she sent a sliding shot that moved from right to left and found the bottom left corner of Newman’s goal.
Newman sophomore Sophie Andry answered for the Greenies in the 56th minute.
Despite the amount of offense (Pope John Paul II outshot Newman 14-7), neither team could get another ball to fall.
MacKenzie Cummins, the Newman goalkeeper, was especially busy Saturday. Cummins made several impressive saves throughout the match, and said she was pleased with her team’s effort.
“They have some really quick girls up top,” Cummins said. “We just had to make sure everyone was in position, and were where they were supposed to be. We did a great job today of hustling to the ball.”
Cross said the way Cummins was stopping shots, she felt goals would be at a premium against Newman (10-5-4.)
“I started in the back and saw a chance to kind of go forward,” Cross said of her score. “I continued my run and got the nice ball back.”
Pope John Paul II coach J.B. Mahoney said both squads stand to get better by facing such quality competition late in the regular season.
“We put this on the schedule early because last year the final was against them. They are a good team and well-coached. It was a great match. It went back and forth. Both teams had good chances.
“It was everything that we expected.”
Newman attacked to begin the match. In the first minute alone, a ball crossed PJP II’s backline and another Greenies shot was stopped on a cross in the box.
Not to be outdone, the Jaguars cranked off two shots in the following four minutes, including a left-footed ball rifled by Marlena Cutura that Cummins saved.
The high-energy effort continued in the following minutes, with Cutura narrowly missing a penalty kick and Newman’s Frances Sperling booting a ball toward the Jaguars net that deflected off a defender.
In the 23rd minute, a corner kick found its way into the PJP II box, and was headed toward a goal. Jaguars’ goalkeeper Alexis Molero broke through the scrum, however, and collected the ball to thwart the Greenies’ best attempt of the half.
Pope John Paul II (9-4-5) outshot Newman 8-4 in the first half.
The second half was much like the first, with both team vying for possession and being able to penetrate the defense on several occasions. Momentum again seemed to swing in the Jaguars favor just after the 50th minute when they attempted a pair of shots.
But then, Andry evened the score at 1-1. The defenses clamped down from that point, and the teams settled for the tie.