For the most part, the Mt. Carmel soccer team breezed through the 2014-15 season en route to a 21-2-2 record and the top seed in the Division I playoffs.
But if the Cubs are to cap their season with a state title, they’ll have to do so against the defending state champion and winner of four of the past seven titles — the No. 2 seeded St. Scholastica Doves.
Compounding the task ahead is that St. Scholastica defeated Mt. Carmel 3-0 when the teams met in a nondistrict match earlier this year.
So while it may seem that history (both past and recent) is working against the top-seeded Cubs, coaches and players from both teams said Saturday’s Division I championship will be a battle. The two soccer heavyweights will meet at 5 p.m. at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans City Park to determine who takes home the title trophy.
The nondistrict match between the schools on Jan. 2 is telling. The match was scoreless until the 62nd minute, before St. Scholastica (20-1-3) scored three quick goals to create the appearance of a mismatch. Recalling that match reminded the Doves’ leading scorer, Courtney Robicheaux, of a similar situation her team went through this year.
“When we played Dominican earlier, they beat us 1-0,” Robicheaux said. “Then we came back and beat them 4-0 in the semis. You can’t overlook anyone.”
St. Scholastica coach Mike Ortner agreed.
“I told the girls the regular season is different than the playoffs. When you get there, you wipe everything clean. (Being seeded second) didn’t bother us. We knew that we’d have to win every game in the playoffs again to be the champs again. Mt. Carmel had a great season. We have to play like that.”
Mt. Carmel coach Pavlos Petrou said his team has improved since the loss to SSA, and that playoff wins over Mandeville, Byrd, and others should have the Cubs ready for Saturday’s showdown.
“We lost focus in that first match for 10 minutes and all of a sudden, we’re down by three,” he said. “They are tremendous in that way, with a lot of speed and a lot of talent.
We’ll have our hands full. But we made improvements since then. The formation is different. We used to go 3-2-3-2, and sometimes we still do, but mostly we have four in the back now. And our midfield has changed up a little bit. I think we’ll be ready.”
St. Scholastica likely will rely on its aggressive midfield and forwards to shoot early and often — a hallmark of the program for years. However, the Doves’ Megan Moser (another offensive threat) said like Mt. Carmel, her team is different nearly two months later, as well.
“We come into every training session, every practice, every game, with a focus on now,” she said. “We don’t play to lose. The past is the past. We play to win now.”
One player who has followed St. Scholastica’s success as closely as anyone happens to play for Mt. Carmel. Kaitlin Childress, a senior defender for the Cubs, had two older sisters play for St. Scholastica in recent years.
“They both got rings,” Childress said of her sisters’ championship-winning ways. “But this is our time to shine. It’s not going to be SSA this time.”
And how to do that?
“We have to stay composed and minimize their shots,” Childress said. “We definitely have to redeem ourselves. That (loss) is not who we are or how we play. We’re a better team than that.”