Final home stretch showing Raiders have heart to be contender in Class 1A postseason


Quincy Notre Dame forward Makayla Patton, center, gets her head on a ball crossed into the box during Wednesday's game against Jacksonville at Advance Physical Therapy Field. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — If home is indeed where the heart is, the Quincy Notre Dame girls soccer team is using its longest stretch of home games to find out how much heart it truly has.

Wednesday’s effort gave the Raiders hope they have the heart of a champion.

Three second-half goals led to a 4-0 victory over Jacksonville at Advance Physical Therapy Field, but more importantly, the Raiders quickly rebounded from Monday’s 1-0 loss to Springfield in which they outshot the Senators 18-1 and came away empty.

“(QND coach Mark Longo) said when we came back home it was kind of like starting fresh, starting our season at 0-0,” sophomore midfielder Sage Stratton said. “We’re trying new things like dropping the ball back more and keeping possession more. We’re trying to be patient to see our gaps and attack.

“It’s about making progress and getting better as a team. We want to be at our best for regionals.”

The energy that comes from playing at home helps.

“I love playing on this field,” Stratton said. “It’s good turf, especially compared to playing on grass. It’s nice being back here, and having our home crowd and a lot of people cheering for us brings back some of our confidence.”

Senior attacker Avery Keck gave the Raiders (14-7-1) a one-goal lead 10 minutes into the first half, taking a pass from Aubrey Sparrow and beating the keeper with a shot into the side netting. Ten minutes into the second half, the Raiders doubled their lead off a nifty give-and-go between Stratton and Lia Quintero.

Quintero set up a corner kick, but instead of flighting it into the box, she played it short to Stratton. After a couple of touches with defenders coming at her, Stratton slotted the ball back to Quintero, who ripped a shot from the top of the box into the far netting.

With 20 minutes to play, Stratton made it 3-0 when she drilled a shot from 38 yards out.

“Longo has told our midfielders to shoot more,” Stratton said. “He wants us to keep our heads up and look at our options. Sometimes we need to be a little selfish and shoot. Sometimes those are times to pass it.”

QND’s final goal came off a Lilly Schuette corner kick as Makayla Patton won the ball in the air in the box and hammered a header home.

The shutout victory — Addison Van Hecke and Aly Young split time in goal while the defense stymied the Crimsons’ attack — sends the Raiders into Thursday’s regular-season finale against Quincy High School looking to create added momentum.

The defending Class 1A state champions open the postseason at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Class 1A regional semifinals against Riverton at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin.

“This final regular-season game against QHS will really test us,” Stratton said. “We will be ready for the postseason as long as we continue to play well and do the things we’ve been working on. Facing QHS will prepare us for what we will see in the regional.”

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