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St. Pius X draws perennial powerhouse Springfield Catholic

St. Pius X draws perennial powerhouse Springfield Catholic

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Meghan Karoly (14) of St. Pius and Gibault's Carley Olsen battle for the battle during Monday's match at St. Pius X High School in Crystal City, Mo. April 1, 2013. St. Pius won the game, 4-0. Rick Graefe, STLhighschoolsports.com

The new kid on the block is about to meet the old bully.

When the St. Pius X girls soccer team takes the pitch against Springfield Catholic at 1 p.m. Friday at Blue Springs South in a Class 1 semifinal, it will be a collision of powers.

St. Pius (22-3, No. 2 in the STLhighschoolsports.com small-schools rankings) is the defending state champion, having won the title in its first final four appearance.

Springfield Catholic (14-10-1) is making its fifth straight final four appearance. The Irish took third last season after winning the championship in 2011 and 2010. They finished third in 2009.

The pedigree of this match is indisputable, but from the look of things the Lancers appear to have the edge.

St. Pius returned nearly its entire championship roster. It boasts three of the top nine scorers in the area and returned three of its starting defenders. It went through the spring season with the added burden of being the defending champ and passed nearly every test thrown at it. Here the Lancers are, knocking on the door of another state title.

“They wanted to go back from the beginning,” St. Pius coach Dan Bokern said. “We knew everyone would want to beat us.”

Taking out the Lancers proved troublesome as their attack is explosive. Haylee Eastridge (40 goals, 19 assists), Caroline Basler (27 goals, 23 assists) and Ashley Marks (25 goals, 14 assists) power St. Pius’ prolific offense.

And while the goal scorers have had the spotlight shined on them, deservedly so, the defensive backfield and goalkeeper have been as critical to this team’s success. Without the defense holding its own against Saxony Lutheran in the district championship match, St. Pius wouldn't have escaped with a 1-0 overtime victory and given itself a chance at another final four.

Alex Ottoline is on the left side, Christian Hovatter is the stopper, Alex Linderer is the sweeper and Devon Votaw has taken over on the right side. Meghan Karoly was starting on the right but suffered a knee injury last week and has been lost for the remainder of the season. Between the pipes is Holly Magre, who’s been credited with 17 total shutouts (10 solo).

“Holly has done well in goal,” Bokern said. “With that crew we’ve done very well.”

With 20 players returning for this second semifinal run, Bokern expects things to go smoothly this week and on the road. When it’s your first time, the unknown can be a bit of a challenge. The experience of last season should make this trip seem almost routine.

“The majority of them have been there and know the process,” Bokern said. “Hopefully that will be a plus.”

As for the Irish, Bokern said he expects them to be a tough opponent. Their history, tradition and coaching staff have proven time again that this time of year is often when the Irish do some of their best work. Then again, the same might be said about the Lancers if all goes well this time around.

“With their roster, they look very young,” he said. “Hopefully it will be a good game.”

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