TAYLOR MILL, Ky. – With a pair of sophomores providing the offense and the state’s stingiest defense recording yet another shutout, the Sacred Heart Academy soccer team is returning to the State Tournament quarterfinals once again.
Cassie Amshoff scored twice, Kiley Polk added a goal and the Valkyries defense allowed just two shots in a 3-0 victory over Simon Kenton in the Semistate Four game on Tuesday at Scott High School.
Playing through rain and cold, the No. 1-ranked Valkyries (19-4-1) posted their 19th shutout of the season and ninth in a row. The single-season state record for shutouts is 20, accomplished in back-to-back seasons (2005 and 2006) by Highlands.
The Valkyries have allowed a state-low seven goals in 24 games this season.
“Defense is something we take a lot of pride in, but at times it thwarts us a little bit in our attack because we’re so defensive-minded as team,” Valkyries coach Jaclyn Puntillo said. “Now we’ve been able to keep that really strong defensive presence while finding some goals against really good teams.”
Sacred Heart qualified for the state quarterfinals for the fourth time in the last five seasons and will face No. 2 Notre Dame (20-5) at 6 p.m. Saturday at Lafayette High School in Lexington. Sacred Heart beat Notre Dame 3-0 on Sept. 19 in the championship game of the Lady Knights Challenge Cup at Lexington Catholic.
“That’s a very good program with a lot of history and tradition,” Puntillo said. “They’re going to come out and be ready for us, and we’re going to be ready for them.”
On Tuesday, Sacred Heart was ready for a No. 9 Simon Kenton squad that featured a very familiar coach and player.
Simon Kenton junior Abigail Zoeller totaled 32 goals and 35 assists while playing at Sacred Heart as a freshman and sophomore. She transferred when her father, Rob, was named Simon Kenton’s head coach after six seasons as the boys coach at Ballard.
“Half that (Sacred Heart) roster I’ve coached and trained when they were little kids,” said Rob Zoeller, whose team finished 18-4. “It’s bittersweet. … Emotionally it was hard for me and I’m sure it was hard for Abigail.”
Sacred Heart dominated the scoring opportunities in the first half and finally broke through with two goals in the final six minutes.
Polk scored her sixth goal of the season on a close-in shot in the 34th minute for a 1-0 lead.
“Kiley has been due for a goal for a while,” Puntillo said. “She had two or three opportunities against Assumption (in Friday’s Seventh Region final) that she didn’t finish, so we’ve been saying the whole time, ‘You’re going to get one. You’re going to get one.’”
With just 29 seconds left in the first half, Amshoff collected a pass that deflected off a Simon Kenton defender and scored for a 2-0 lead.
Amshoff began the season as a center back but since has moved to midfielder.
“I guess we needed someone up front that could put some goals away and help the offense,” Amshoff said. “I thought I could be that person. … I like offense more, so it suits me pretty well.”
Amshoff scored her second goal of the game – and 10th of the season – for a 3-0 lead in the 58th minute.
The cushion was plenty for a defense led by a fourth-year starter in center back Claire Fell and a third-year starter in goalkeeper Sarah Stodghill.
“Claire Fell, hands down, is the best defender in the state,” Rob Zoeller said. “She reads the game so well. They have good players all around. They all can play.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and [email protected]