Notre Dame shocks No. 1 Sacred Heart to win girls' state soccer title

mmaloney@herald-leader.comNovember 9, 2013 

Notre Dame stunned top-ranked Sacred Heart with an early goal Saturday night en route to a 2-0 victory in the Girls' State Soccer Tournament finals at Dunbar.

Ellen Combs scored 2:43 into the match to get the Pandas unleashed before a Jon Akers Stadium crowd of 3,464 fans.

No. 4 Notre Dame, in the finals for the third year in a row, also won in 2004 and 2011. Last year, the Pandas lost in the finals to Tates Creek.

"I think we were ready to take it on this year, and I think we're all really excited to win," Combs said.

Coach Sara McSorley wasn't about to pull back after the quick strike.

"It was going to be a long 78 minutes after that, so we knew that we had to get another one in after that," she said.

The Pandas got the needed insurance with 24:41 left in the second half, when Mandy Arnzen found the back of the net.

"We were lucky we were able to catch them on a day they could be beat," McSorley said.

Notre Dame (24-2-3) never flinched on defense, turning back every Sacred Heart challenge.

Libby Greenwell, named tourney MVP, led the defensive wall.

"It's awesome," she said. "I wasn't really expecting to be MVP. I thought I played well, but the team did awesome. We really came together."

Greenwell, a sophomore, said last year's loss in the finals "was just fuel to come back here and play our butts out and just try to win, and we did. It's just awesome. It feels really great to be here."

In addition to coming back from last year's loss in the finals, McSorley used the state rankings to help put a charge into her team.

"We tried to play the underdog a little bit just because it's something that was just an added motivator for them, because they came in undefeated."

The Valkyries (23-1-3) also lost to Notre Dame in the 2011 finals and have been runners-up three times total. They won four titles, most recently with a string of three in a row that ended in 2009. Their other title came in 2003.

"I think our record speaks for itself," Coach Jaclyn Puntillo said. "We had a lot of nerves today. We're a littlel bit young, starting three freshmen and a couple sophomores and juniors. So I feel like this is definitely a place we could see ourselves in next year, but maybe with a little more experience. But I'm so, so, so proud of my team. They came out here and fought so hard, and we had awesome leadership from our seniors all year."

Notre Dame finished its title season having outscored opponents 99-9.

Sacred Heart outscored its foes by a combined 132-14.

Notre Dame 2, Sacred Heart 0

GoalsND: Ellen Combs, Mandy Arnzen.

GoalkeepersSH: Sarah Stodghill. ND: Courtney Hansel.

Records — Notre Dame 24-2-3, Sacred Heart 23-1-3

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com.

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