November 3rd, 2011
Wistrom, Herbert Send Valkyries To Finals
SHA defeats Bowling Green 3-0 to advance in state tourney
On October 8, 2011, the Sacred Heart Academy soccer team traveled to Franklin, OH and played Bishop Fenwick High School to a 2-2 tie.
The draw moved the Valkyries' record to 7-9-3 and seemed to bring opposing teams around the state to the conclusion that Sacred Heart was in the middle of a down year.
Twenty-six days later, SHA is 13-10-3, has won five games in a row and finds itself preparing to play for the program's fourth state championship in five years by defeating Bowling Green 3-0 on Thursday night in the KHSAA state tournament semifinals.
Sacred Heart sophomore Caroline Wistrom continued her hot play on offense with another two-goal performance in the 2011 postseason, senior Sara Herbert had two assists and the Valkyries overcame a rainy, windy and downright nasty night of conditions at Paul Laurence Dunbar's Jon R. Akers Stadium in Lexington to earn the school's 7th state championship game appearance since 2002.
"It's a cold night but I'm feeling pretty warm right now," said SHA head coach Chris Moore. "I'm really proud of the girls. We've really come through in the postseason and it's awesome to have another shot at another state title."
Moore, who perenially builds difficult regular season schedules in order to test his teams and prepare them for the postseason, says this year's team has had a state championship as a collective goal all season.
But it's been the past few weeks when the Valkyries have really started to believe in the possibility.
"We have grown so much, I think moreso than I've ever had a team before," said Moore. "We're pretty young and we've had a lot of younger players that have really had to step in throughout the season. We took our lumps and had some tough games, but the growth this team has shown and the ability to come together and ability to want to work together has just been amazing."
"It's been a lot of fun."
Sacred Heart jumped on the Bowling Green Purples early, as Wistrom used some extra force to move the ball through the soaked and sludgy field turf, and toward the back line, where she struck from the right side and managed to sneak the ball past BG goalkeeper Keely Vincent from a tough angle, giving the Valkyries a 1-0 advantage in the game's 9th minute.
As the rain intensified during the first half, both teams struggled to mount much offense and a stalemate ensued for the duration of the half.
"We kept looking at the forecast this week and hoped it wasn't going to be as rainy. I think the field played a little sloppy for both teams in the first half and it did make it very difficult," said Moore. "One of the things we told the girls was that we needed to go out there and give it extra effort, and I think that's where the goals came from."
In the second half, however, as the rain subsided, Wistrom struck again with 20:31 remaining in the game on another assist from Herbert, as the Purples' Vincent was unable to handle the shot on goal and SHA soared ahead 2-0.
"On the second (goal) I was cutting across and Sara played it on a really nice ball through," said Wistrom. "And I was just there to finish it."
Moore prasied his sophomore following the game, specifically her clutch play down the season's stretch.
"(Wistrom) had two very good goals (tonight)," said Moore. "She's been solid for us all year long and really making (goals) when they matter."
Valkyries junior Eleanor Gabriel contributed her team's third goal - a sure-fire score that seemed to serve as the game clincher against a Bowling Green team that had little answer for a dominant SHA defense.
"Our backs I think did an absolutely fantastic job. (Our defenders) have really come together. We really haven't given too many goals away (in the postseason)," said Moore. "And I think that's a big reason for our success."
Sacred Heart Academy goalkeeper Corinne Peabody finished with six saves and came up with SHA's 11th shutout victory this season. The Purples' Haley Pannell, who scored 21 goals this season, was kept in check all game long and never got into any kind of offensive rhythm for the 19-win Bowling Green squad.
The Valkyries, a team that bowed out in the first round of the state tournament last year after winning three straight titles from 2007-2009, will attempt to win the fifth title in the history of the program on Saturday when they face 10th Region champion Notre Dame Academy (23-3).
The NDA Pandas advanced to the finals by defeating West Jessamine 4-1 in the second semifinal matchup on Thursday.
"It feels great. Last year our season was cut short, but this year we've done well and hopefully we'll finish on top," said Wistrom. "We'll be very anxious these next couple days."
SHA and NDA will play for the 2011 state championship at 7pm on Saturday in Lexington at Paul Dunbar High School. These two teams did not meet this year, but the Pandas did defeat the Valkyries 1-0 on Sept. 14, 2010 in a weekend tournament at Lexington Catholic.