St. Joseph’s Academy soccer team builds another strong season

Lisa Johnston |

Speed, ball-handling and pinpoint passing have contributed to the roll St. Joseph's Academy's soccer team is on this season.

The team defeated Nerinx Hall High School 1-0 May 18 to move its record to 18-2-1 this year and advance to the sectionals of the Girls Soccer State Championship May 24 against Northwest High School of Cedar Hill.

The win against Nerinx brought St. Joseph's the Class 4, District 2 championship. Freshman Maria Haro scored the lone goal in the game in the first half on a pass from Gabrielle Lawlor. Nerinx played hard and had chances in the second half but couldn't tie the game. Both teams' goalies, MaryRose Breheny for St. Joseph's and Megan Cunningham for Nerinx, had strong games. 

St. Joseph's won the district semifinal 4-2 over Parkway South High School in a steady rain May 16.

St. Joseph's scored three quick goals against Parkway South, a blessing because of the weather conditions and the skill of their opponent, said Maureen McVey, coach of St. Joseph's Academy, who had stressed the need to get off to a good start. "They literally took me at my word by going in and scoring that quick," she said. Emily Burton had the second and fourth goals and Grace Dressel and Karsen Kohl also scored for St. Joseph's.

The team knows what it takes to win in the playoffs and "focuses on doing the small things right and letting the rest take care of itself," McVey said.

Burton said the team gained confidence from getting three early goals in the semifinals, but Parkway South provided tough competition in a difficult environment. "We all bonded together and pulled through," she said.

Her team is special because the players have grown so close, Burton said. "In practices we work hard. We've gotten better every day and have worked hard for the postseason. It definitely forms a bond on and off the field."

Ellen Donlin, a junior defender, said the key to the Parkway South game, when the ball was skipping everywhere due to the wet conditions, was to stay calm and get passes strung together. Scoring quick goals set the tone, she added.

Everything the team did during the season was working toward the postseason, Donlin said. "A lot of people have stepped up on and off the field. It all comes down to this," she said.

Her passion for soccer comes from being part of a team of friends who win and lose together, she said. At St. Joseph's, the players remember to pray before the games and the seniors give a reminder to teammates about sportsmanship and ignoring negative comments and a desire to retaliate.

McVey said the girls carry their faith on the field with them, playing a clean game and respecting their opponents.

Last year, St. Joseph's Academy won 4-1 against Lee's Summit to take third-place in the state tournament and end the season at 24-1. The team has been to the state finals each of the last five years, winning the championship in 2014.

Nerinx Hall

Nerinx Hall won its district semifinal game 2-1 in overtime against Kirkwood May 16, with the winning goal coming off a head ball from Alli Klug on a corner kick by Kathleen Reis.

Kirkwood always has been a worthy opponent, said Brian Haddock, Nerinx Hall's coach. "Tonight we needed extra time to do it, but our girls had the work ethic to win the game," he said. "Even though it could have gone either way, we deserved it."

Haddock was pleased with his team's performance, noting that they played well the entire game, something that the team, 13-10-2, struggled with in some games earlier in the season.

Reis has done an excellent job all year by diversifying her corner kicks, the Nerinx coach said, so it's not predictable and the opponent "keeps on its toes."

The team is a tight-knit group that when hit by injuries finds someone else stepping up, he said. For example, in the Kirkwood game, role player Abby Host stayed in the whole game to fill in on defense for injured Sophia Mulwa. "This team will always be known as one that understands how to have fun and when the whistle blows to get down to business. And that's a life lesson," Haddock said.

In high school sports there's more to the game than wins and losses and accolades, he said, with his team placing an emphasis on faith and sportsmanship.

Other sports championships

Ultimate Frisbee

De Smet Jesuit High School defeated Marquette High School 15-6 on May 8 to win the 2016 state high school Ultimate Frisbee championship.

The title is the ninth state championship in the sport for De Smet.

De Smet Jesuit's team includes players who didn't play until high school, but most have played other sports. This season is the first since the International Olympic Committee gave official recognition to the sport, which means that disc sports are eligible for future Olympic Games.

Water Polo

St. Louis University High School won its 18th state water polo championship May 14. Led by a strong defense, the team defeated Lindbergh 10-1 in the championship game at the Rec-Plex in St. Peters. It is SLUH's eighth win in the last 11 years and the second championship in a row. SLUH finished the year 25-1, with the loss coming at a tournament in Chicago April 1.

SLUH had 21 steals, and 89 percent save percentage, three field blocks and only 15 shots allowed. Player of the Game Chris Kreienkamp had seven steals for the team. Kreienkamp, Dan Walsh and Joe Jellinek each had two goals.  

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