published Sunday, October 27th, 2013

Lady Irish edge Grace for state berth

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    Kelsey Barta (22) of Notre Dame and Emily Clarke (9) of Grace Academy compete for the ball during the A/AA soccer sectional Saturday at Notre Dame.
    Photo by Maura Friedman.
    enlarge photo

Notre Dame coach Jim Schermerhorn felt victory in Saturday's soccer match was going to take his Lady Irish making one more play than their opponent, Grace Academy. And Elizabeth Ciabattone made it.

The senior knocked in a goal in stoppage time off a Mackenzie Nadeau corner kick, and Notre Dame was able to advance again to the state tournament with a 2-1 victory over the Lady Golden Eagles.

"Coach always tells us to go after loose balls. I saw it bouncing around the box, I got a foot on it and it went in," Ciabattone said. "It feels great to score, but I can't take credit for it. We played hard in the final 10 minutes, and we finally got one to go through."

Notre Dame (12-6-4) went ahead on a goal by Emma Higgins in the 10th minute and held that lead until about 10 minutes remained, when Grace's Emily Clark scored for a 1-all tie. The match had been primarily controlled by the Lady Irish, but Clark's goal seemed to put things in perspective.

"I knew that Grace was a good team. I hadn't seen them play in a couple of years and I hoped it wouldn't be this close, but I expected it to be and it was," Schermerhorn said. "After they scored, we kept pushing, which I'm happy about. We kept going."

The heartbreak continued for the Lady Golden Eagles (17-4-1), who recently fell twice to McMinn Central -- once when a tying goal was waved off in stoppage time, another while holding a lead with mere seconds to go in overtime, only to see the Chargerettes score a goal, then advamce on penalty kicks. Saturday's defeat was only a couple of minutes away from an overtime period.

"We had a couple of opportunities, and when we talked before the game, I told the girls that all it takes is one [opportunity]," Grace coach Gretchen Hammel said. "We knew we were the underdog, but we gained confidence going forward that we belonged here."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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