ASH edges rival Newman

NEW ORLEANS — In the first round of the girls Division III state playoffs, the Academy of the Sacred Heart romped over Bossier, 11-0, at Pan American Stadium, Sacred Heart’s home pitch.

But when the Cardinals came back to Pan Am on Friday afternoon, they knew the contest would be a little more difficult this time. After all, second-seeded ASH was playing archrival and No. 7 seed Isidore Newman in the quarterfinals. It was a guaranteed barnburner.

“It won’t be 11-0, I’ll tell you that,” Sacred Heart coach Tooraj Badie said before Friday’s game.

It certainly wasn’t. ASH senior forward Sarah Martin netted the game-winner in the 75th minute of a physical, chippy showdown that ended in a 2-1 triumph for the Cardinals.

“Newman is our biggest rival, and we were playing them in the quarters,” a breathless Martin said after the contest. “We really had to give it our all to get to the next game.”

Martin netted the deciding score after Sacred Heart senior midfielder Ashley Pou lofted a pass into the box in front of Newman seventh-grade goalkeeper Isabel Lane, who suddenly faced the Cardinal duo of Martin and senior midfielder Grace Gille alone in front of the net. It was ultimately Martin who poked the ball in, netting her second goal of the contest.

“I’m just really excited right now,” a flushed, sweaty Pou said after the final whistle. “We worked our (butts) off, and this is what we came here for.”

After Martin opened the scoring in the 49th minute, the Greenies grabbed the momentum right back a few minutes later when senior Tyler Edell lofted a pinpoint, long shot just over the outstretched hands of ASH senior goalkeeper Megan LeBlanc to knot the game at 1-1.

But LeBlanc redeemed herself later in the second half when a flurry in front of the Sacred Heart net resulted in a stinging shot toward the left side of the goal. LeBlanc made a diving save to nix Newman’s scoring hopes, setting the stage for Martin, Gille and Pou’s game-winning heroics.

“This wasn’t going to be my last game or my team’s last game,” LeBlanc said. “I was fully prepared to do whatever I had to do to keep my team in it. If that meant making a diving save, I was going to make it.”

The Cardinals improved to 16-3-2 and now advance to play third-seeded University Lab in the state semifinals.

But for now, the Sacred Heart players and coaches are just going to savor a sweet, hard-fought triumph.

“I’m going to go party,” Pou said with a gleeful laugh. “I’m just so excited. I feel so good right now.”