Tougher schedule helped Notre Dame get better
NAPERVILLE – One of the stories following the Notre Dame girls soccer team at the Class A state tournament at North Central College was the improvement of ND’s non-conference schedule compared to last season and the rewards it presented the Irish.
The toughened schedule helped ND (18-7-4) better itself, which was noticed by back-to-back state champion coach Rory Dames of St. Viator.
“I told (ND coach Matt Blackford) when he was walking off the field, the team that played us the first time compared to this team, the amount of work they’ve done and the improvement they’ve made is a great credit to them,” said Dames, who also told Blackford that the Irish were the most improved team the Lions saw this season.
St. Viator (26-1) beat ND 2-0 on April 5th at the St. Viator Tournament and 1-0 in the semifinals Saturday.
“We knew we’d take some losses with our schedule,” Blackford said. “But if we hadn’t played the schedule we did this year, we wouldn’t have been playing (Saturday). We probably wouldn’t have made it here.”
Happy? Yes and no: While Notre Dame’s lone senior, midfielder Lyndsay O’Brien, said it would take a few weeks to feel good about ND’s fourth-place trophy, Blackford said it may take longer for others.
“Knowing our kids, they’ll be a little bitter about it. And they’ll be upset but it will be a motivator for us,” Blackford said. “For some of our kids it may take two years but they’ll come back and visit the school and see it in the cabinet and say, ‘Yeah, I won that.’ ”
Best of the best: One concern about the tournament format the Illinois High School Association uses is not having a state title match between the two best teams in the state.
“It’s probably the first time in a few years the IHSA has had the best teams in the final,” said Dames, who has coached St. Viator to the first two Class A state championships. “Last year our final was in the quarterfinals (against this year’s runner-up, Troy Triad) and we knew it.
“It’s about getting representation, not about getting the best teams there. This year it worked itself out.”
Celebration:Notre Dame will celebrate its fourth-place trophy with a 1 p.m. parade through Peoria today. The parade will start and end at the school at the 5105 N. Sheridan Road. A rally in the school’s gymnasium will follow the parade.
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