Whatever the outcome, it would have been special.
That the outcome of the 2018 Cathedral High School girls soccer season was the program’s third state title made it all the more so.
“The year, the season, was just really enjoyable,” Irish girls soccer coach Mark Behringer said. “The girls did what we asked them to do. We built an identity through the season and everything just fell into place.”
The Irish, a year after a bitter sectional-final loss to Bishop Chatard, fulfilled what they early on set as their seasonal goal – beating South Bend St. Joseph by a score of 1-0 in the Class 2A Indiana High School Athletic Association state championship game at IUPUI on October 27.
The Irish also won the 2007 and 2009 IHSAA girls soccer state titles.
“This group very quickly made it known that their goal was to win a state championship,” Behringer said.
The Irish (13-4-4), No. 4 in the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association final rankings, scored 93 seconds into the state final when junior Maddie Wirth was credited with a goal from a scrum in front of the St. Joseph net.
Senior goaltender Sophia Saucerman registered eight saves and an Irish defense that grew stronger throughout the postseason shut out St. Joseph through the final 78 minutes. St. Joseph outshot the Irish 22-5 in the final.
“Our defense became so formidable if we could find a goal in a game – somehow – we could make it very difficult for a team to draw even,” Behringer said. “We prided ourselves on how well we defended, and I think that was true all the way through to the final.”
Saucerman, who Behringer said played at a first-team All-State level throughout the season with seven clean sheets, allowed just two goals in six postseason games – with one coming on a penalty kick.
The Irish’s formula was similar in an emotional state semifinal, with Saucerman and the Irish defense shutting out top-ranked Evansville Memorial in Evansville. Senior forward Jennifer Utzinger’s goal from the box late in the first half bounced off the hands of Memorial goaltender Mallory Nussmeier into the net for the lone goal of a 1-0 Irish victory.
“They are an incredibly talented bunch of players,” Behringer said. “It was a big match. We had to go down to Evansville to play them, which made it challenging as well. We made a trip out of it, and tried to do everything we could to prepare the girls and give them the best possible chance to do what they ended up doing, which was to get that upset win.”
Utzinger tied for the team lead with seven goals and 17 total points (seven goals, three assists).
“Utz had a fantastic year,” Behringer said. “She was a big part of what happened for us.”
Also key for the Irish:
Junior midfielder Carson Kwiatkowksi, who tied for the team lead in assists and who was “the engine” of the team at times; sophomore Caroline Cline, who tied with Utz for the team lead in goals; senior middle back Grace Kowalevsky; senior defender/midfielder Zoie Obst, who emerged as the defender who marked the opponent’s best scorer; junior back Bridget Stratman; junior back Marcelle Blanchet; senior wide back/midfielder Olivia Carrico; and senior wide back/midfielder Halle McHugh.
The Irish had six players score between five and seven goals, with six players scoring between 11 and 17 points and nine players who had at least three assists.
Behringer said senior Hailey Loftin also was key. She sustained a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the fourth game of the season, but remained a vocal and inspirational leader. She was selected by the seniors to speak at pep rally at Cathedral leading into the state final.
“Her contribution to the team was immeasurable,” Behringer said.
The Irish beat New Palestine, 3-1, for the regional championship at New Palestine. Carrico, Blanchet and Obst all scored goals.
The Irish advanced to the regional final with a dramatic 1-0 overtime victory over South Dearborn in a morning regional semifinal at New Palestine. Obst converted a header for the game-winning goal in overtime off a corner kick from junior Elizabeth Sheddy.
The Irish beat Roncalli 2-0 for their first sectional title since 2015 and the 17th in program history and also won a fourth consecutive city title and the 19th in program history, beating Chatard in a shootout in the city final.
Behringer said that the season could be special became evident early when a 12-member senior class quickly assumed a leadership role that set the tone for the season and embodied two Holy Cross values in particular: Family and Excellence.
“I can’t imagine a better senior group,” Behringer said.
The 12 seniors: Saucerman, Utzinger, back Sydney Manley, Carrico, McHugh, Loftin, Obst, Kowalevsky, midfielder Emma Doyle, forward Grace Brenton, forward Nicole Mason and midfielder Montgomery Odle.
“They wrapped their arms around everybody, which was key,” Behringer said. “Then they created an environment in which all the players – from seniors all the way down to freshmen – could really improve and really try to reach high level personally.”
Named to the MCCGSA All-City team: Carrico, Cline, Kwiatkowksi, Obst, Saucerman and Utzinger. Cline, Kowalevsky, Kwiatkowksi, Obst, Saucerman and Utzinger were named to the MCCGSA All-Tournament team.
“There was something about them from the beginning,” Behringer said. “Each team we kind of choose a mantra. This team chose, ‘Unfinished Business.’ They felt like the way the season ended last year wasn’t the way they wanted it to be. They carried that mantra all the way.
“I give them credit. The further you go in the tournament, when you come out to warm up and you have ‘Unfinished Business’ on your back, that becomes a bigger and bigger target. It was just a great group. This group has just been a lot of fun.”