Notre Dame Prep has tough act to follow Shining games vs. leaders means more pressure

Girls soccer

October 12, 1997|By Katherine Dunn | Katherine Dunn,SUN STAFF

Now comes the hard part for Notre Dame Prep's 13th-ranked girls soccer team.

After stunning back-to-back performances -- upsetting then-No. 2 Mercy and tying No. 1 Catholic -- the Pirates now face the greater challenge to remain among the Catholic League's elite.

"That was such a great week," said senior Deena Lattanzi. "It's hard now, because what can we do to top that? But we did it once with Catholic right after Mercy. I'm sure we can do it again."

After winning the Catholic League B Division title in 1995, the Pirates struggled last year in the A Division. They appeared headed down the same rough road this season, especially after a disappointing early loss to Archbishop Spalding.

"Everyone had the mentality that we were the underdogs and we were going to remain the underdogs," said fullback Meredith Potempa, a team captain along with Lattanzi and Candice Rovencamp. "We've had to tell them that the only way we're going to change that is to do it ourselves."

They could not have picked a better time.

After ending September with just one Catholic League victory and a 2-4 record, the Pirates beat Mercy 3-1 on Oct. 1 and tied Catholic 2-2 on Oct. 3.

"They were two fantastic teams," said halfback Rovencamp, "and those games showed us that if we work together we can do things we didn't think we could do."

There was plenty of credit to go around, but there were two standouts. Goalkeeper Emily Lessner made 42 saves, including 24 against the Cubs. Lattanzi had four assists, three against Mercy.

Although they don't have as many club players and don't play as refined a passing game as some of their Catholic League opponents, the Pirates have made up for in determination what they may lack in finesse.

"They're very tenacious," said Catholic coach Jerry Dieter, whose team is ranked fourth in the nation by USA Today. "They play a lot of one-touch long balls. Their strategy works well for them. If you get something that works for you, you stay with it."

Pirates coach John Cusson said his team's emergence has been more a matter of time than anything else.

NDP played only one preseason scrimmage. By the time the Pirates played their first game on Sept. 9, Mercy had played six times and Catholic eight.

"Those games make a difference," said Cusson. "They get an opportunity to fool with their lineup -- try different people at different positions, look at different combinations. It took us until the Mercy game to settle on who was going to play where. In those two games, they put together all of the things they have been working on since August."

The Pirates, who start freshmen Kim Singleton and Megan Targarona on defense, nearly struck down their first giant two weeks before the Mercy game. They took then-No. 4 St. Mary's scoreless into the 78th minute before losing 1-0.

"It's just confidence," said Cusson. "It all started in the St. Mary's game. That's when they started thinking, 'We're just as good as these other people.'"

Now that they have developed the confidence, the Pirates need to play consistently through the last five games of the regular season. Their next three opponents are unranked and those worry the Pirates more the last two, No. 2 St. Mary's and No. 12 John Carroll.

"If a team is not as good, we don't think we have to put forth the effort," said Potempa. "We can play outstanding and then play not so outstanding. We have to be consistent. We have to beat those teams we should beat."

Although several of the Pirates are playing with their club teams in the annual Washington Area Girls Soccer tournament this weekend, the team is in the middle of almost a week off while seniors make college visits, juniors go on retreat and sophomores take a field trip to Williamsburg.

Cusson and the Pirates know the break could stall their climb, but they hope it will reinvigorate it, instead.

"We can be ranked higher than we are now," said Potempa, "but it's not even about that. We can come together and prove to ourselves and to everybody else that we focus on the positive and play as a team. Hopefully, we'll be able to stay united, and if we're not No. 1 or No. 2, that won't really matter as long as we play our hearts out and play to our potential."

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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