Success on set pieces helps QND girls soccer team ‘set the tone for the rest of the season’


Quincy Notre Dame's Makayla Patton, right, collides with Jefferson City Helias' Liza Kemna while challenging for a ball in the air during Saturday's game at Advance Physical Therapy Field. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Perfecting set pieces became a point of emphasis during the lead-up to the Quincy Notre Dame girls soccer team’s season opener.

“For the past three days, we’ve worked on them every day,” junior midfielder Lilly Schuette said. “Even in walk-throughs.”

The reason why became obvious 12 minutes into Saturday’s game against Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias.

On a Schuette corner kick from the left end, QND junior forward Makayla Patton won the ball in the air and bodied it into the net, resulting in a goal for a 1-0 lead in what turned out to be a 3-2 victory at Advance Physical Therapy Field.

“I really think we’re going to be dangerous on corner kicks and free kicks,” first-year QND coach Mark Thomas said.

The have-no-fear attitude is a key reason why.

“We have some good people in the air,” sophomore forward Addie Flesch said. “We’re not scared to go up and run through people and get what we need to get done.”

The willingness to do whatever it takes carried over to the second half. After Helias rallied to tie the game at 2 by halftime, QND clamped down defensively over the final 40 minutes and used Schuette’s penalty-kick goal in the 58th minute as the game winner.

“I liked our resolve, not just in winning the game but playing better as the game went on,” Thomas said.

Surrendering a two-goal lead could have been a backbreaker.

Following Patton’s goal in the 12th minute, the Raiders doubled their advantage in the 18th minute. Off a short corner, Schuette played a ball into the box that was knocked down by a Helias defender. Flesch jumped on the loose ball and buried a quick right-footed shot.

“We did a good job on our corner kicks and attacking the ball,” Flesch said. “That’s something Coach Thomas has been emphasizing and working on.”

Helias answered with a pair of goals as freshman Liz Kemna scored in the 19th minute and freshman Alaina Meyer scored in the 34th minute.

“Helias didn’t panic,” Thomas said. “And we had two balls that we didn’t clear and they took advantage. We didn’t react very well, and good teams will make you pay for that.”

So the halftime talk centered on better positioning defensively.

“We needed to mark,” Schuette said. “We had to mark.”

The Raiders had to play relentlessly, too.

“We all kept at it and kept after it,” Flesch said. “Even if we got beat, there was always someone chasing them down.”

The ability to counterattack led to the game-winning goal. Senior wing Lauryn Peters pushed up on the attack and was fouled in the box. Schuette buried the subsequent penalty kick with 22 minutes remaining for the 3-2 advantage.

“When I go up there, I keep looking around in a square,” Schuette said. “Then I pick one spot and try to hit that spot.”

It was just like the Raiders had practiced.

“She tucked it away nice,” Thomas said.

The defense did the rest.

“We finished the game pretty well the last 20 minutes,” Thomas said.

Thomas felt it was a good first step for a team that will travel to Orchard Farms for a Tuesday game in St. Louis before playing in the Quincy High School tournament next weekend. His players agreed.

“I think it was important to set the tone for the rest of the season,” Flesch said. “We had new people in new positions, so I think it was good to get people comfortable and playing together.”

Better yet, the Raiders realized the effort will not wane.

“I liked that none of us stopped running,” Schuette said.

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