DECATUR — It took Normal University 10 minutes to get a handle on St. Teresa's defense and then scored quickly and often on Tuesday in a Class 1A sectional semifinal, winning 7-0.
"We started off a little slow and we were just getting used to the jitters or whatever it is. Then we started to get some passes strung together and the goals started dropping," U-High head coach Hayley Sefton said.
Much of the opening half was spent on the Bulldogs' half of the field and St. Teresa's defenders tried to limit the Pioneers.
"St. Teresa did a really good job defensively. I think they shifted their formations a little bit and they were packing the box a little bit, which I don't blame them," Sefton said. "It made it harder to score and it took a little while to see where our openings where."
Alison Heller scored the Pioneers’ first goal at 31:18 and U-High’s Madison Allen received a pass on the right side of the goal and kicked it through for the Pioneers at 17:03 to make it 2-0.
That opened the scoring floodgates as Bree Corday scored twice along with Lilly Miller, and Raminda Mateewuttikul in the next 10 minutes, making it 6-0.
Elise Luallen scored for the Pioneers with 1:56 left in the first half, making it 7-0, and it stayed that way through the intermission. The Pioneers spread out their offense with six different players scoring, adding another challenge for the Bulldogs.
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"It is hard to defend when everyone can score a goal. I thought our shooting effort was pretty good and we weren't just settling on just close shots. We were taking some farther ones which was really good for us," Sefton said.
The Pioneer defense severely limited St. Teresa’s offense as the Bulldogs had few shots on goal. A strong kick from the right corner by St. Teresa freshman Joella Livingston was the Bulldogs’ key scoring opportunity in the first half but was stopped by U-High goalkeeper Olivia Checchi.
"We are a young team and we had a lot of new girls come out this season. We didn't have any seniors and we have a good group of juniors," St. Teresa head coach Connor Haaksmith said. "We had a lot of girls added in that hadn't played soccer before. It was a weird year with COVID and the summer schedule, but we are a young team and I'm looking forward to the future of this group."
St. Teresa goalkeeper Akpevwe Akpoigbe had 12 first half saves and finished with 17 saves.
"Akpevwe is a brand new player to soccer. Just a couple days before our first game, we had to figure out who our goalkeeper was and she volunteered," Haaksmith said. "She has done really well. She improved in each game and on. Even though the scoreline was difficult for us today she made some big saves for us."
With the Pioneers' scoring lead, the second half was limited to 20 minutes and didn't feature any scoring.
U-High moves on to the sectional finals to face Herscher on Friday at Herscher, time to be determined. Herscher defeated Champaign St. Thomas More 9-2 in Tuesday's other sectional semifinal.
"We always talk to them that we want to be better than our last game. Honestly, we hope we are better in the next game than we were here," Sefton said. "We've got a couple things we need to work on in our quickness of play but that's we have a couple days for the next."
Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten