In last week's district soccer final, the Notre Dame girls' soccer team was inches away from allowing a last-second goal that would have forced overtime.
The Lady Irish made sure they didn't put themselves in that same position during Thursday night's Region 4-A/AA championship match.
When Blair Barker finished a cross from Mackenzie Nadeau with 5:36 remaining against Chattanooga Christian, it effectively clinched a 2-0 victory for host Notre Dame.
"It was really a relief," Lady Irish coach Jim Schermerhorn said of his team's late goal. "These games are so close, and anything can happen. In the district final, they hit the goalpost with two seconds left, and we came away with a 1-0 win. I'm glad we maintained our intensity in the second half tonight."
In the rematch of the District 7-A/AA title game, runner-up Chattanooga Christian came out strong, and coach Cal Sneller felt good about his team's first-half performance even though the Lady Chargers couldn't produce a goal to show for it. The good news for his team at the half, though, was that the Lady Irish couldn't either.
"I thought it was pretty even," Schermerhorn said of the first 40 minutes of play. "Maybe CCS had a little better play, but it was a lot of the typical back-and-forth that you usually see in these games."
For the second half, the Lady Irish increased their work rate, and the tide began to turn in their favor. In the 55th minute, Emma Higgins got Notre Dame on the board when she followed a rebound into the net.
"In the second half, we started getting nervous, and I'm not sure why," Sneller said. "We started losing focus on what we were trying to do."
The Lady Chargers had a few opportunities for an equalizer, but never managed to connect, and Barker's late goal put the match out of reach. Both teams will advance to Saturday's Class A/AA state sectionals, with Notre Dame hosting 3-A/AA runner-up McMinn Central, and Chattanooga Christian traveling to Region 3 champion East Hamilton.
"It was just a good win," Schermerhorn said. "Our work rate was good and our confidence is getting better. Overall, we're just starting to play better. It's good to play these October games at home."
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org