Title defense no easy task, but QND girls soccer team’s experience makes defending crown possible


Senior sweeper Eva Dickerman, left, and the Quincy Notre Dame girls soccer team will try to defend their Class 1A state championship this spring. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Watching the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team fall short of its goal of defending its Class 2A state championship made the QND girls soccer players realize a very important fact.

Repeating isn’t easy.

So as the Raiders embark on their own title defense — the reigning Class 1A state champions who went 23-3-3 last season open their season Monday at Hillsboro — they understand there’s pressure to perform and no guarantees they will win another title.

“One-hundred percent,” senior midfielder Avery Keck said. “It’s so hard to repeat. All the teams are after you, so there’s that pressure, too. Every game could change things.”

It forces the Raiders to ratchet up the intensity.

“I would say we have to make sure we don’t settle and think that just because we won last year we don’t have to work hard,” senior sweeper Eva Dickerman said. “We should definitely come back in and work even harder.”

It will be the only way to survive.

Not only are the Raiders the defending champs, but they did not graduate a starter, added a solid freshman class and will eventually have all-state forward Lia Quintero completely healthy. Plus, every member of a defense that posted seven consecutive postseason shutouts returns to serve as the team’s backbone.

So the target is there.

“It’s the same as basketball,” Quintero said. “After coming back with a state championship, everyone has more of a desire to beat Quincy Notre Dame than they usually do. We are definitely going to have to work hard.”

It’s what Quintero has done since last May after suffering a knee injury in the state semifinal game that required surgery and cost her both the tennis and basketball seasons. She will ease back into the soccer lineup, but she expects to be full strength soon enough.

Quincy Notre Dame senior forward Lia Quintero scored 31 goals last spring and has 70 career goals. | Matt Schuckman photo

The Raiders need her scoring punch. Quintero has 70 career goals and is one of only two double-digit scorers returning. Sophomore forward Makayla Patton scored 16 goals last season, while Annie Eaton, who had 14 goals, decided not to play to focus on club volleyball.

QND still expects to have firepower, but the Raiders realize success offensively depends on connectivity and balance.

“It’s going to take a lot of camaraderie,” Quintero said. “Losing a couple players, gaining a couple freshmen, they are going to have to step up and we’re going to have to play as a unit the whole season.”

Team chemistry is not a worry.

“Having the experience and having everyone back makes things easier,” Dickerman said. “We all know the drill. We all know what to do to get the job done.”

Defensively, that’s easy. Post as many goose eggs as possible.

Last year, the Raiders had 13 regular-season shutouts and 20 overall. Flanking Dickerman with experienced players such as Grace Bertram and Aubrey Sparrow on the wings and Sage Stratton and Anna Keck in the middle makes the defense a stonewall.

It makes repeating as the state champion possible.

“We have the nucleus. We have the talent. We certainly have the desire,” QND coach Mark Longo said. “It’s all there. It’s just a matter of putting it all together.”

With that said, Longo realizes there’s one ingredient the Raiders need that none of them control.

“A lot of luck,” Longo said. “You have to have luck on your side to win it. Skill plays a part most definitely, but getting the right bounce, a penalty kick going off the crossbar, anything that gives you an edge like that, it’s luck. You’re going to need that.”

With or without luck, the Raiders realize they can overcome almost anything with effort.

“We all just need to stick together,” Dickerman said. “Do anything to get the job done and work hard every practice.”

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