St. Michael the Archangel escaped four Cabrini near-misses on shots off the crossbar and the posts to hold on for a 1-0 Division II girls soccer playoff win at BREC’s Burbank Soccer Complex on Friday night.
The bidistrict victory moved the Warriors to 8-14-0 and sends them into a regional matchup with Vandebilt Catholic. Cabrini finished 11-13-1.
Cabrini’s senior forward Shelby Smith had a great year, scoring 32 goals in the regular season, but it’s a couple of balls that didn’t go in the net that she’ll remember.
In the 54th minute with the score 0-0, Smith banged an open 15-yard shot from the near post off the crossbar. Then, after St. Michael had gone up 1-0, she was wide left on a penalty kick after being taken down in the box.
“As a goalkeeper and a goalkeeper training coach I tell my players sometimes you have to give some love to your posts,” St. Michael coach Andrew Neeson said. “Cabrini played a great game. They’re really well coached. Both teams did a good job on possession in the middle of the field, and both teams played very physical. Really, we were very lucky tonight.”
Cabrini coach James McCaig was stoic about the Crescents’ lack of good fortune.
“To be honest, I wasn’t happy with the calls, but it still could have been there for us tonight,” he said. “We hit the bar twice, hit the post twice, missed the penalty. We had absolutely no luck tonight, unfortunately, but they played well, so congratulations to them.”
It was the second 1-0 win of the year for the Warriors over Cabrini, but St. Michael went into this game two players down. Their leading scorer, Ashley Rivet, was out with a broken foot, and goalkeeper Jessica Wright suffered a concussion in the district championship game against Lutcher.
“When we played them earlier we scored in the first five minutes, then they held us scoreless for the next 75 minutes,” Neeson said. “Tonight, they held us scoreless for 40 minutes in the first half, then another 25 before we scored. I honestly didn’t think one would win it tonight. After they hit the posts a couple of times, I thought we’d have to score a couple.”
The one goal St. Michael scored came in the 65th minute when the Warriors were awarded a free kick on what McCaig called a “soft foul.” Cabrini goalkeeper Alexis Hepting muffed Lauren McMahon’s ball to the front of the goal, and Hayley Johnson drove home the rebound.
Cabrini turned up the pressure during the last 10 minutes to give St. Michael a few tense moments. They had a free kick and three corner kicks in last five minutes but couldn’t find the net.
St. Michael goalkeeper Emily Putman punched a Lisette Hrapmann free kick over the goal, and Jessie Keelan missed a shot off a corner kick by Hrapmann. Pitman also made a key stop when she left the goal to challenge Smith on a breakaway and kept her away from the goal.
The first half was mostly back and forth with no momentum to either team, only a brief flurry starting in the 34th minute when both teams got a quality shot, but Hepting and Pitman each had a save to keep the game scoreless.
“We’re a very young team, and we started out playing the long ball a little too much,” Neeson said. “At halftime we said, ‘Hey, let’s not always hit the first ball, let’s hit the second or third one,’ ” he said.