By Derek Shore (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Monett, Mo – The legacy of the Springfield Catholic girls’ soccer team lives on.
In fact, not only did Catholic repeat as district champions, but have now won 15 district titles over the last 16 years.
“As a senior, it just feels awesome,” Catholic senior defender Emma Lucas said. “I really love all of the girls I play with. It is really just a blessing.”
“It feels good,” teammate and junior forward Kaleia Huttenlocher added. “It feels like we are headed in the right direction. Hopefully, we will go all the way to state.”
The Lady Irish are headed back to the state playoffs after shutting out Logan-Rogersville with a 3-0 win in Tuesday night’s Class 2, District 10 title game.
“District championship is one goal we have every year,” Catholic head coach Ben Timson said. “Obviously, we would like to progress as far as we can in the state tournament. In the last few years, we have done well there, too. Winning a district title is sure sweet and it never, never gets old.”
In the first period of play, Springfield Catholic controlled possession of the ball for most of the half. That did not stop Logan-Rogersville from holding them scoreless through the first ten minutes of the game.
The Lady Irish, who dominated the Lady Wildcats earlier this season with a 9-0 win, did not get on the board until the 28:38 mark in the first period. Kaitlin Knetzke launched a ball from 10 yards out which snuck under the legs of Rogersville goalkeeper Lindsay Schatzer for an early 1-0 lead.
Logan-Rogersville continued to apply heavy defensive pressure on Catholic throughout the rest of the first frame. The Lady Irish did, however, get several scoring opportunities yet couldn’t get the ball past Scahtzer, who helped keep the Lady Wildcats within striking distance heading into intermission.
“They came out very, very aggressive which we expected,” Timson said. “We have played them in district championship games before. They play real strong against us. With everything on the line tonight, they played well. We were real fortunate to get that first one.”
At halftime, Timson said he talked with his players about “getting the ball all way to the end line and sending it back across on the ground.”
“In the first half, we weren’t doing that,” the coach added. “We were taking bad angled shots – when you get around the outside and hit the side of the net or playing it right to the keeper because there just wasn’t an angle.”
Those adjustments paid immediate dividends.
Less than 20 seconds into the second period of play, Lucas had the ball at the end line and sent it back across on the right side to Huttenlocher, who blasted the ball into the net to quickly give the Lady Irish a 2-0 lead.
“I was looking to dribble up,” Huttenlocher explained. “I knew everyone was running up and the defenders were runner, too. The easiest thing was to cut back and play the ball like someone coming up, so it is an easier shot.”
With 26:44 left in the game, Catholic put the nail in the coffin when Lucas fired a perfect shot just inside the post from about 20-out. The assist was from none other than Huttenlocher to make it 3-0.
“I just saw an opening and I took it,” Lucas said. “That is usually how soccer works for me.”
From that point on, Catholic continued to control the possession of the ball, soaking up the clock en route to a 3-0 victory.
“Emma has been playing great for us out on the outside wing on the right,” Timson said. “Kaleia is real strong in the middle, very technical on the ball, and has very smart runs. They just connected tonight on both of them which was great to see.”
For Logan-Rogersville, they finish the season with an 11-11 overall record and graduate only three seniors, so there is plenty of optimism surrounding the future of the Lady Wildcats.
Next up for Springfield Catholic, they advance to the state tournament and will host Southern Boone (19-6-1) on May 19.
“Southern Boone always plays very well against us,” Timson said. “Chris Miller, their coach, is one of the best in the state. He always has his girls ready. They are playing well now. They have a couple of girls up top, who can score some goals.
“We are going to have to figure out a way to put a few in ourselves. I expect a tight game. Fortunately for us, we got them at home, so that is a good thing. They got to take the three-hour bus ride this year instead of us.
“They will be ready. There is no question about it. They always play us tough.”