SOUTH BEND — After hanging tight with stellar Wheeler a few weeks ago, La Porte's girls soccer team believed it could be competitive with another exceptional squad in South Bend St. Joseph.
And for the first few minutes in Thursday night's Class 3A South Bend Riley Sectional semifinal, the Slicers had the ball almost exclusively on their side of the field.
Once the Indians flexed their collective muscles, though, it was fast and dominant. St. Joe tallied a pair of goals in a 14-second span to build a 2-0 cushion not quite four minutes in. From there, the Indians cruised, using Caroline Edmonds’ first-half hat trick to rout La Porte 8-0 at Jackson Field.
Still, prior to the game, Slicers co-head coach Ashley Rozparzynska said her team approached it positively, despite knowing La Porte was a gigantic underdog.
“The way we viewed it was we held Wheeler to one goal in the first half,” Rozparzynska said. “And we know we have that fire and that drive in us, it's just finding it inside of them. And showing them that they can do that, they just need to believe in themselves. But once you give up two quick goals, it's a little hard to wrap your head around it and get back in the game.”
Edmonds earned a hat trick in roughly the first eight minutes, putting Class 3A No. 6 St. Joe (14-2-1) ahead 4-0.
After that, the Slicers (4-10) were fighting uphill the rest of the night. They were extremely outshot and their scoring chances were few.
Rozparzynska said what makes the Indians such a dynamic team is their offseason regimen and their skill level.
“A lot of them play outside of high school leagues,” she said. “They play in club together. They've probably played for many years together and they work very well as a team. And they're very fluid with all their passing and everything.”
Natalie Moore struck first for St. Joe, netting a goal with 36:20 left in the opening half.
Only 14 seconds later, Edmonds recorded the first of her three tallies. She finished it low and to the left of the net, making it 2-0.
Not quite three minutes later, Edmonds scored again, again finishing it to the low and left part of the goal.
Edmonds capped her first-half hat trick with just over 32 minutes remaining before the break. The ball was again played behind a Slicers’ defender and she shot it low and to the left of the net. That gave the Indians a comfortable 4-0 lead.
With 30:55 to go in the first, La Porte's Madison Coates made a nice defensive play, stealing the ball in the goalie's box from a St. Joe player.
But the Indians' Lauren Harrington, Isabella Frick and Madison Veldman followed with first-half scores to put the Slicers in a 7-0 hole at the break.
Then, to begin the second stanza, Georgia Place added the final goal a mere 41 seconds into the half.
“It was a tough loss,” Rozparzynska said. “We played a really great team tonight. They really know what they're doing. They have a really great program.”
La Porte goalie Lauren Pollock, who started the contest, had eight saves, including a quality save with 5:39 to go in the first half. But she hurt her left knee, left the game with 33:27 remaining and didn't return.
Grace Holt made one save in net after replacing Pollock.
Coates had both of the Slicers' shots on goal.
St. Joe meets South Bend Adams in the Class 3A South Bend Riley Sectional final at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Eagles downed Mishawaka 4-0 in Thursday’s first semifinal.
On the other side, La Porte loses 13 seniors to graduation, chief among them Coates, Morgan Llewellyn, Gabby Latchford, Lidia Calderon, Sarah Beck, Jasmine Diaz, Erin Johnson, and Shelby Linn.
“The senior group is truly going to be missed,” Rozparzynska said. “There's a lot of great talent. Most of them are our starting players, and if they're not our starting players, they're the ones that go in right away. It's going to be hard to replace them. It's going to take a lot of work in the offseason. A lot of recruiting and a lot of getting girls out there, and getting them interested and getting them developed.”
Class 3A S.B. Riley Sectional
S.B. St. Joseph 8, La Porte 0
The Slicers were outshot 13-2.