Though they were the No. 2 seed in the Louisiana High School Athletic Association Division I girls’ soccer championship, St. Scholastica played like the top seed.
That wasn’t totally surprising, as the Doves were the defending state champion and had handily defeated No. 1 Mt. Carmel earlier this season.
History repeated itself Saturday when SSA whipped the Cubs 3-1 in the Division I girls’ final at Tad Gormley Stadium at New Orleans City Park.
SSA beat Mt. Carmel in their first match of the season — a 3-0 win on Jan. 2 at the SSA Athletic Complex. And though Mt. Carmel only allowed one goal during its four playoff matches before the title game, SSA (as it often does) found a way to get the ball into the net. The Doves outscored their five playoff opponents by a total of 21-1.
The Doves defense was equally sound. The goal Mt. Carmel scored was the first SSA (21-1-3) allowed in 10 consecutive playoff matches.
Tournament MVP Courtney Robicheaux, who scored twice Saturday and assisted on the other goal, said she felt her team was the better squad.
“I was a little hesitant about who was the better team, because you never know what Mt. Carmel is going to bring,” she said. “But I think we wanted it more. We brought it to them every second. We never stopped.”
The first 10 minutes of the final saw both squads jockeying for possession, though it appeared that SSA had the upper hand early in the match. No shots were taken early on, however, and the rivals got into the meat of the first half with no shots attempted and no score.
That changed in the 13th minute when Maggie Otillio passed to Robicheaux in the Cubs’ box. Robicheaux put the header into the back of the net and gave the Doves a 1-0 lead.
Robicheaux found the goal again in the 31st minute when she retrieved a through ball and looped it over the defense to an empty net.
Mt. Carmel (21-3-2) responded only seconds later when Esther Lagos pushed into the SSA side and knocked a ball into the lower right corner. But not to be deterred, the Doves went ahead 3-1 with only seconds remaining in the first half when Gabbi Anderson gathered a ball just inside the Mt. Carmel box, whirled to her left, and bumped a shot into the left side of the Cubs’ net. Robicheaux assisted on the shot.
St. Scholastica made three of its four shots on goal in the first half. Mt. Carmel connected on one of its two attempts before halftime.
The second half was relatively quiet, with the teams combining for six shots in the final 40 minutes. MCA had the best look in the 72nd minute, but SSA’s eighth grade goalie Elizabeth Kalmbach saved the shot. A few seconds later, another MCA shot glanced off the right post to keep the lead at 3-1.
SSA coach Mike Ortner praised his offense, but said defense was key in the victory.
“The first goal you give up in two years of playoff games? That’s strong,” Ortner said. “The defense deserves a heck of a lot of credit, considering we had some injuries back there and are young in the back, in general.”
Mt. Carmel senior Kaitlin Childress said going down 2-0 to the potent SSA team was a lot to overcome.
“We just got caught off guard on a couple chances and SSA is a very good team and they’re well put together,” Childress said. “They just put their chances away. Ultimately, they put more chances away than we did. We had one off the crossbar, but I think we just gave up too many in the first half and it was hard to recover.”
Cubs coach Pavlos Petrou agreed.
“In the first 20 minutes, we didn’t come out strong and they did. I thought the first two goals — I don’t know. They’re a great team. They came out wanting it. We respect them very much. They’re very well coached. They deserved it. I thought the second half we gave it all we had. We had some good looks, some good chances, but if it doesn’t go your way, it doesn’t go your way.”