By Dave Malaska
CRESTVIEW HILLS, Ky. – Notre Dame pushed its unbeaten streak to 12 games, rolling past NewCath, 6-0 in a Region 9 semifinal at Dixie Heights on Wednesday.
Six different players scored goals as Notre Dame dominated play from start to finish, keeping the ball on the Thoroughbeds' side of the field for the bulk of the game and outshooting NewCath, 21-5. The Pandas also had 14 shots on goal to the Thoroughbreds' three.
The Pandas went up, 1-0, in the 24th minute when sophomore striker Taylor Watts dodged a collision in front of the goal to tap in the first score of the night. NewCath keeper Meg Martin had come out of goal to collect an errant pass and bobbled it, as Watts danced past her for the easy goal.
Notre Dame took a two-goal lead a minute later when senior Carlee Clemons headed in a Maddie Tierney corner kick, also giving Tierney the new school record for assists. That score stood at the half, then senior Zoe Stovik added to the Pandas' total four minutes into the second half on an angled shot from the side that found the back corner of the net just beyond Martin's dive.
Carissa Dyer made it 4-0 five minutes later off a cross from Emma Schneider. Mandy Arnzen and Megan Berberich added late goals for the final tally.
Martin, in goal for NewCath, finished with eight saves in the loss.
Notre Dame coach Sara McSorley said the Pandas clearly came ready to play.
"We were ready, mentally. Sometimes, we struggle to put together two halves, so it was nice to see us play that strong from start to finish," the coach said.
Tierney added that the team, which has outscored opponents, 35-0, over its last six matches — including a 5-0 win over Dixie Heights in the regional opener on Monday — has come to expect it of themselves.
"We had the same mentality that we had against Dixie, that we were going to go out hard get every ball in the air make every tackle. Just give everything we had," Tierney said.
The win sets up Saturday's rematch with Highlands for the regional title. The teams have met twice this season, splitting the results. The last time they met was the last time the Pandas were beaten, a 2-1 result in a shootout at the Lexington Catholic Cup tournament in mid-September.
That game may have put the Pandas on a mission to collect their third straight regional crown, and another run at the state title, said McSorley.
"Losing that game, I think it refocused us," McSorley said. "We were going up and down all season, because we were young. But when you lose hard-fought match like that the kind of wakes you up. We've responded in a positive manner."
After beating the Bluebirds, 3-0, in August, Notre Dame may have overlooked them in Lexington. That will not happen on Saturday, Tierney said.
"I think our mentality going into the Lexington game was that we'd already beaten them once and it was going to be easy, which obviously wasn't the case," Tierney said. "This time, we'll come out strong. We have something to prove."
"We'll be mentally ready," McSorley promised. "I think it should be an exciting match. Both teams have been playing well the past couple weeks. It'll be an intense regional final."
HALFTIME: 2-0. GOALS: ND—Watts, Clemons, Stovik, Dyer, Arnzen, Berberich. SHUTOUT: NDA—Hansel and Kim (3 saves). RECORDS: Notre Dame 19-2-3, NewCath 13-4-4.