LAKE CHARLES — Defending state champion St. Louis Catholic found its focus and dominated the second half to earn a return trip to New Orleans for a soccer state championship game with a 3-0 semifinal win over University Saturday.
The top-seeded Saints (29-1-3) will face E.D. White, a 1-0 winner over Vandebilt Catholic in the other semifinal, for the Division III championship at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in New Orleans at Tad Gormley Stadium.
Nick Cironi and T-Beau Faul combined on the first two goals. Faul slipped a pass into the box that Cironi tapped in for the opener in the first minute after halftime. Twenty minutes later, Faul headed in a Cironi free kick at the back post to put the Saints ahead 2-0. Joseph Manuel capped the scoring with 5 minutes left when he corralled a loose ball and scored from the top-right corner of the box.
The Saints applied pressure throughout the first half but couldn’t put one in the net.
“It was just better execution in the second half,” Saints coach Jason Oertling SAID. “We were trying to wear them down, rotating guys in and trying to press them as much as possible. They were really tall. We were worried about that.”
University (16-6-4) managed one shot on goal. The Saints have not allowed a goal in the playoffs, outscoring their three opponents 15-0.
Oertling said the Saints showed more fire than in previous games.
“It had been frustrating because we had not been playing as well as we could have,” he said. “This team has some of the best players we have ever had here, but they had not been playing with the proper intensity. The St. Louis way has always been to outwork and outhustle the other team. We had been relying too much on our talent before today. We finally put the intensity and talent together.”