Early second-half flurry leads Dixon past Lady Saints
Saint Paul spent most of the first half dodging bullets shot at the Lady Saints' goal by the Dixon Lady Bulldogs forwards, strikers and midfielders.
The Lady Saints survived about three-quarters of the 40 minutes being played on their half of the field, escaping to talk to head coach Hannah Denk during the 10-minute intermission with a 1-1 tie.
However, when play continued, the Lady Bulldogs weren't missing the mark with their shots.
Dixon scored three goals in the first seven minutes of the second stanza, en route to a 6-3 victory in a Class 1 sectional game that was moved from Saint Paul to Suzie Ditzfield Park in Sedalia last week Tuesday.
The Lady Bulldogs peppered Saint Paul netminder Hannah Gillet with shot after shot.
"Dixon seemed to have the motto: If you're open, no matter where you are, shoot, and hopefully you'll eventually get a good shot off," quipped Denk.
The Lady Saints, who were reduced to five full-time starters, two varsity substitutes as starters, three junior-varsity players who were forced into more varsity action or starting roles and three players from the softball team, were first to put a goal on the scoreboard.
In the 20th minute, Dixon fouled a Lady Saints player outside the 18-yard box, setting up a direct free kick.
Hadley Rolf drilled the free kick through the Dixon goalkeeper's hands into the upper 90 of the net.
The Lady Bulldogs really started applying pressure after that. Eventually, they were awarded a corner kick, leading to the tying goal in the 32nd minute.
Gillet played a sharp first half, making 20 saves. The Lady Bulldogs sailed several shots wide or high.
The misses stopped in the early moments of the second half, the Lady Bulldogs scoring goals in the 44th, 46th and 47th minutes.
Instead of packing it in and giving up, the Lady Saints showed some heart, scoring the game's next two goals.
"That's one thing I love about this team. They never give up," Denk said.
In the 56th minute, Rebecca Roepe, who had scored the golden goal to beat Sacred Heart for the Class 1, District 9 title, used her speed to dribble past two Dixon defenders and scorched a shot through the hands of the Lady Bulldogs' keeper and into the net.
Rolf raced up the field 14 minutes later. She advanced into the box where she was illegally tackled by the Dixon goalkeeper, setting up a penalty kick.
Devon Heins nailed the freebie, trimming the lead to 4-3.
Despite the excitement, Denk said the Lady Saints--who only had two substitutes available--were wearing down.
"I had six players who played the whole game," she said. "The field we were playing on was a large field."
Dixon was able to take ad-vantage of the spent Lady Saints and scored two goals on breakaways in the final 10 minutes when SPLHS was trying to push forward to get the game-tying goal.
Gillet was tested throughout the game, registering 37 saves, two off the school record set by Dana Peters.
Even if the Lady Saints would have won, they would have had to forfeit in the quarterfinal round because they wouldn't have had enough players available.
"The girls knew it was our last game, no matter what," Denk said. "They had fun, and I was proud of the way they played."
The Lady Saints dominated much of the final 66 minutes of regulation and two overtimes when they edged Dixon 3-2 to win the Stover Tournament in April.
"There's no doubt in my mind that if we had our full squad, we would have dominated and made it to quarterfinals," Denk said. "We had a really great season, and I'm proud of everything the team accomplished. But I think we all wish we could've seen how far we could have gone together.
"It's been a fun year, and I'm happy I could be a part of it. I wouldn't want to coach any other team."
In the four setbacks, the Lady Saints weren't shut out, and they outscored their opponents 85-23.
Dixon lost a 2-1 decision at home to Springfield Catholic in the quarterfinals Saturday.
The semifinals and trophy matches are set for Friday and Saturday at Blue Springs South High School.