Four years without a trip to the state soccer tournament feels even longer to a team with the history and tradition of Notre Dame.
But now the Irish know that they only have to wait until Tuesday for that drought to end.
With a 1-0 victory over Boyd-Buchanan on Saturday afternoon in the Class A/AA state sectionals, Notre Dame earned a berth in the TSSAA state quarterfinals for the first time since 2007.
“This is a great group of guys, and they’ve worked really hard for this,” Irish coach Jim Schermerhorn said. “We’ve lost our last game in overtime the last two years, so this was big. The seniors on this team have never been to state.”
The District 7 and Region 4 champion Irish opened the sectional match with three dangerous opportunities in the first nine minutes. They had one goal negated by an offsides call, while another shot bounced high just in front of the line and a ball from Baggio Card went wide right.
The Irish’s work paid off with 28:42 remaining in the opening period when Nick McGirl headed in a corner kick from Blaise DiStefano to give Notre Dame a 1-0 lead. Rather than giving the Irish momentum, however, Schermerhorn said his team’s play actually dropped a little for the rest of the half.
“I thought we were playing pretty good until we scored, but we didn’t settle down and play after that,” he said. “I didn’t think we played as well as we could have, but that might have been because Boyd was playing well, or because of the pressure of this game. I think we never really got into the flow.”
Boyd-Buchanan’s best scoring chance of the first half came with 14:22 remaining when a free kick got away from the keeper, and the Bucs just missed the follow. Boyd-Buchanan (15-4) created several more chances in the second half, but couldn’t manage to finish any of them.
“In the second half, we had a lot of opportunities, we just couldn’t capitalize,” Boyd-Buchanan coach Jason Owens said. “And Notre Dame played very tough. They were going to do all they could do to keep it out of there.”
“We’re proud of our guys,” Bucs coach Dustin Walker added. “They played hard until the final whistle. That’s one thing about Boyd-Buchanan soccer; we will always play hard for 80 minutes. We feel blessed to get to hang out with a group of guys like this every day. They’re just good guys. And we’re definitely pleased with the progress we’ve made from last year, but we’ll continue to shoot for more.”
After the Irish defense made the 1-0 lead hold, Notre Dame (12-9) joined the group of eight Class A/AA teams that will travel to Murfreesboro next week to compete for a state title. Quarterfinal play begins Tuesday at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex, where the championship match will be played on Friday.
“We’re not going to do anything differently,” Schermerhorn said. “I’m confident with where we’re at right now as a team. Hopefully we’ll settle down and play well Tuesday.”
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org)