LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sacred Heart’s soccer team is still alive thanks to an early goal, great goalkeeping and, perhaps, a little bit of luck.
Cassie Amshoff scored the only goal, and Sarah Stodghill made five saves to lift the Valkyries to a 1-0 victory over Notre Dame in a KHSAA quarterfinal at Lafayette’s Ishmael Stadium.
Sacred Heart, which seeks its first state soccer title since 2009, will return to Lexington on Thursday to play Bardstown Bethlehem in a state semifinal. The game is set for 6 p.m. at Paul Dunbar.
In a match between the top two teams in the Kentucky High School Girls’ Soccer Coaches Association poll, the Pandas (20-6-0) registered more corner kicks, more shots on goal and more total shots than top-ranked Sacred Heart. But the Valkyries (20-4-1) led the most important statistic.
“We knew coming in they were going to be prepared, and they were going to play with lots of intensity,” Sacred Heart coach Jaclyn Puntillo said. “I thought we did a really great job of managing that.”
The Valkyries got the lead in the game’s eighth minute when Amshoff had possession outside the box. After no Notre Dame player came up to press her, the sophomore midfielder took a couple dribbles forward and lofted a shot from about 18 yards out that was just beyond the outstretched arms keeper Audrey Nienaber, who couldn’t reach high enough to knock down the ball before it went in the upper-right corner.
Once behind, the Pandas started taking the attack to the Valkyries, but almost every time they would get an excellent opportunity, Stodghill was there to preserve the clean sheet. In the 26th, she made a diving stop to secure a shot from Taylor Watts, and in the 64th minute, she denied Watts again on a header after the Pandas senior striker received a crossing pass from Allison Robertson.
“A lot of that was not luck, it was her skill in getting in the right spot,” Notre Dame coach David Gronotte said of Stodghill’s performance.
The one time Stodghill wasn’t in the right spot was when the Valkyries got a little help.
In the 74th minute, moments after Stodghill made a save on a Mary Tierney shot, Sarah Schuh’s attempt on goal hit off the left post. That was the last chance the Pandas would have. It reminded Puntillo of last year’s state semifinal, when her team had a shot hit a post in the loss to Owensboro Catholic, and a loss this year to Assumption, when her team hit the woodwork three times.
“I was like, ‘Finally the post saves us,’” she said. “It was nice to have a little bit of luck on that one.”
Schuh had a similar shot from the top of the 18-yard box in the Pandas’ semistate game against Bishop Brossart, but in that one, Gronotte said, her shot clanged off the post and into the goal.