U-High soccer teams try to keep momentum going _lowres

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS University High girls soccer coach Melissa Ramsey shouts instructions to her players during a game against Episcopal on Jan. 5.

A little more than a month ago, the second-seeded University High School girls soccer team notched a 1-0 win over Academy of Sacred Heart. That win won’t carry any weight against one of the state’s top programs when the teams meet again in the Division III semifinals.

Third-seeded Sacred Heart (14-4-4) won four consecutive championships before being ousted in the semifinals last year. The Cardinals were the state runner-up all four years before their title run.

That streak carries more meaning than a regular season win as the schools meet at 5 p.m. Friday at UHS’ Boss Field/Gill Stadium. The winner advances to Thursday’s title game at Tad Gormley Stadium in New Orleans.

The semifinal berth is U-High’s first since 2013, when Sacred Heart beat the Cubs 3-1 en route to a state championship. Sacred Heart also beat UHS in the quarterfinals in 2010 and 2011.

“We are not thinking this will be an easy game at all,” U-High coach Melissa Ramsey said. “They have destroyed us three times (in the playoffs) in the past. We know this will be a hard match.”

Cubs’ leading scorer Jessica Shelby provided the winning goal on Jan. 17 when U-High edged Sacred Heart 1-0. Goalkeeper Elizabeth Bankhead had five saves.

“The game could have gone either way,” Ramsey said. “It was one of those where we had a great shot and scored. They had a bunch of opportunities, too. It was a 50-50 game.”

For Sacred Heart, Sara Dawson’s first half goal held up as the Cardinals picked up the win at No. 11 St. Louis. U-High’s road contest at No. 10 Newman was scoreless until Alyssa Strupp’s 77th minute goal.