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SI rides pair of goals to WCAL playoff win

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After dominating for the first 71 minutes of its West Catholic Athletic League playoff game against visiting Notre Dame of Belmont, a single moment put St. Ignatius on its heels.

The Wildcats carried a 2-0 lead into the 72nd minute, when Notre Dame’s Veronica Benvenuto sent a high, accurate crossing pass into the penalty area. The pass found sophomore Lauren Miller, who got just enough of the ball with her head to send it into the left side of the net.

After the momentary blip, the second-seeded Wildcats returned to form, again controlling possession, and didn’t allow the Tigers to threaten again in a 2-1 win.

“It’s playoff time and when it’s one-and-done it’s always thrilling,” said St. Ignatius coach Carlos Escobar. “You always hear that 2-0 is the most dangerous lead in soccer and you saw it today, but these girls have had a tough road to get here and had moments like this. They’ve been there before and they knew they had it in them.”

The Notre Dame (6-11-4) goal was its only shot on target in the game, compared with St. Ignatius’ 10, as the Wildcats (12-7-3) applied offensive pressure from the start. The Tigers appeared to be content to absorb the attack and try to counter, dropping nearly all of their players back to defend the St. Ignatius barrage in the first half.

“We played in a system the whole year and we were able to counter when we needed to, but [St. Ignatius] has a great team and a really strong group of defenders,” said Notre Dame co-coach Tim Nixon. “It’s tough for us when we can’t get the ball through.”

The plan initially worked, and Notre Dame freshman goalkeeper Jackie Sideris had five saves to open the game before St. Ignatius senior Mica Sangiacomo broke through with her first goal of the season in the 34th minute.
“When the team gets into a shell like that, it does get frustrating and that was the point, they wanted us to get frustrated,” Escobar said.

The Wildcats then got a lift from another first-time scorer in the 48th minute, as senior Caileen Viehweg blasted a shot into the top of the net from close range after a picture-perfect cross from junior Kate Bettinger.

“Both of our scorers scored their first of the year and they gave us a big burst,” Escobar said.

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