Season ends with 9-0 loss to nationally-ranked team
It took about 15 seconds for the wheels to start to come off in the second half, and De Soto's girls soccer team lost Friday to St. Thomas Aquinas, 9-0.
Facing the ninth-ranked team in the nation, the Wildcats trailed, 1-0, at the half despite the game being played almost exclusively on De Soto's half of the field.
De Soto players were confident, and Aquinas was growing frustrated, but the goal right after the half blew the game wide open.
"We played an outstanding first half," coach Darren Erpelding said. "They (Aquinas) were frustrated, and the girls were pretty pumped up. Then they scored 15 seconds into the half. That settled Aquinas down a lot."
In the first half, De Soto frustrated the Saints when time and time again, Aquinas was in position to score but the Wildcat defense held the ball out of the net and cleared the ball. Almost the entire first 20 minutes, and well over the majority of the first half, was played on the third of the field in front of De Soto's net.
But Jaimie Zvirgdins made the saves and the defense cleared the ball to keep the score at 0-0. Then at the 19-minute mark in the first half, Aquinas got on the board off a corner kick.
The score remained 1-0 the rest of the half, as De Soto was unable to get the ball on its offensive side of the field but played solid defense and got the ball cleared away from the goal.
"I think they only took like 10 shots on frame," Erpelding said. "We were either not giving them shots or we were taking stuff they wanted away. But it's not like they were peppering our net, by any means. We were just able to clear everything out."
Erpelding attributed a lot of that good defensive play to the performance of sweeper Carly Stanley.
"Carly probably played the best game she's played in high school, I think," he said. "She's scored a ton of goals and gave out a lot of assists - had complete games. But that game, I really felt she was the best player on the field that night."
In the second half, Aquinas made an adjustment that was detrimental to De Soto's postseason aspirations.
Instead of crossing balls on the ground, the big legs of Aquinas began crossing balls over the middle of the field through the air. The Wildcats' lack of height put them at a disadvantage, and it went down hill fast after the quick goal to start the second half. Seven of Aquinas' nine goals came via players using their height advantage to rise above De Soto defenders and score off headers.
De Soto managed no shots on goal in the game and had possession of the ball on the Aquinas half of the field for less than five of the 80 minutes.
Zvirgdins, unlike the De Soto offense, had a busy night. She recorded 13 saves against 23 shots.
De Soto finished the year with a record of 10-7-2.
The Saints (15-1-1) play Bishop Miege (8-10) in the quarterfinals Tuesday.