After withstanding a constant barrage of shots in the first half, Notre Dame de Sion made good on its first scoring opportunity and came away with a 1-0 victory over Rockwood Summit on Saturday at Swope Soccer Village for the Missouri Class 3 girls soccer title.
The championship moment for the Storm came with 16 minutes, 54 seconds remaining in the game. Senior Delaney Ulowetz set up for a corner kick and sailed the ball into the middle of the box.
In the right spot was senior Stephanie Ostrander, who headed the ball by Rockwood Summit goalie Kelli Fink for what turned out to be the game-winner.
“Laney has done that all year,” Ostrander said. “This was the icing on the cake to score there. We had to finish it. We worked so hard for this. It was really everything we wanted and more. This is the best feeling in the world. There is no other feeling.”
The Storm finished 20-5 and successfully defended its Class 3 title. A year ago, Sion beat Rockwood Summit 1-0 in the championship game.
The Falcons entered this year’s title game with the more sparkling record, having lost just one game and tying another. Rockwood Summit, which finished 27-2-1, was definitely the stronger team in the first half.
“Our defense keeps us in games,” Sion coach Matt Darby said. “We build out of the back. I know we have the best goalie in the city and one of the best defenses in the city.”
Sion went into halftime tied 0-0 in large part because of the play of sophomore goalkeeper Afton Fennewald.
“Afton is unbelievable,” Ostrander said. “She is the best we have ever had. She knows everywhere where the ball is. She is awesome.”
In the last 15 minutes of the first half, Rockwood Summit put constant pressure on the Sion defense.
With 14:16 left, Rockwood Summit freshman Lily Schneiders set for a free kick about 30 yards out. She nailed the shot but Fennewald was in proper position to tap the ball over the crossbar.
“I just wanted to stay strong, stay in it and keep the defense focused,” Fennewald said.
Five minutes later, Schneiders got off another strong shot from about 30 yards out and once again Fennewald tipped the ball over the goal. Fennewald made her best save with 3:50 left, diving to stop a potential goal.
Partly because of a 10 mph breeze, most of the action was on Sion’s side of the field. The Falcons took advantage of the wind to create opportunities, but Sion was able to keep Rockwood Summit from scoring.
“As we continue to play and as we continue to defend and frustrate the other team, things start to go our way and our possessions start to improve, and somehow, someway we find goals,” Darby said.
With the wind at its back in the second half, Sion put a little more pressure on Rockwood Summit, but good scoring opportunities were sparse.
But then came the corner kick from Ulowetz, and she put the ball in the perfect spot for Ostrander to score.
“Here we go again,” said Fennewald about what went through her mind. “We played last year with a 1-0 lead for the last 78 minutes. We knew how to take care of it.”
Indeed. The Storm continued to play strong the final 16 minutes to hold a 1-0 lead. Rockwood Summit went on the attack. The Falcons weren’t going to allow a breeze in their face to prevent them from testing Sion’s defense.
Sion answered on multiple occasions. One of those came with 2 minutes left. Fennewald was in the right spot to gobble up yet another shot on goal.