St. Michael edges Lutheran South to advance Class 1 girls soccer state championship

By Greg Uptain
Special to The Examiner

FENTON, Mo. – Katelyn Daugherty hasn't been a high school soccer player long, but she's already made a lasting impact on her program. 

The St. Michael the Archangel Catholic freshman defender scored on a loose ball with 8 minutes, 15 seconds left to lift to the Guardians to a 2-1 win over Lutheran South of St. Louis in a Class 1 girls soccer semifinal game Wednesday afternoon at World Wide Technology Soccer Park. 

St. Michael (18-4) advances to take on John Burroughs (13-3-1) for the Class 1 championship at 12:30 p.m. Thursday. The Bombers blanked New Covenant Academy 4-0 in Wednesday's other semifinal. 

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St. Michael the Archangel Catholic's Katelyn Daugherty, center right, leaps into the arms of teammate Sophia VanHorn after scoring a goal to put the Guardians ahead in their Class 1 state semifinal game against Lutheran South Wednesday. Daughtery's goal proved to be the game-winner in a 2-1 win that put the Guardians in Thursday's state championship game.

“I can take a deep breath now. It's where we wanted to get to at the beginning. These girls have worked so hard all season long and we're just excited to be there,” said Guardians coach Mary Kroening, whose team does not have a senior on the roster. “We know we're going to be up for another challenge tomorrow. It's gonna be a great game. I think two evenly matched teams. We're ready for the battle.” 

Lutheran South (9-11) lost for just the third time in nine games after a rough 3-8 start. 

“That's a good team over there,” Lancers coach Jeff Robben said. “They dealt us fits. But we hung in there, we battled.” 

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St. Michael the Archangel's Victoria Swingle (10) knocks in the game's first goal past Lutheran South goalkeeper Ellie Buscher and Kata Bolliger, right.  in their Class 1 state semifinal Wednesday. Swingle scored the first St. Michael goal and the Guardians went on to a 2-1 victory to advance to Thursday's state championship game.

The winning goal came as the result of some hard work in the box by SMA leading scorer Victoria Swingle. She couldn't get a decent shot off, but the ball eventually found its way out to Daugherty, who lofted it high over Lancers goalkeeper Ellie Buscher from about 25 yards out. 

“I saw that Tori was working hard and I wanted to be there to follow up,” Daugherty said. “I had my opportunity and I took it. This is a great way to start my high school career and help me do well going forward.” 

Kroening marveled at Daugherty's ability to create opportunities. 

“She's a freshman, but she plays bigger than a freshman and has had goals like that all season long,” Kroening said. “Those are difficult balls as a goalie to have a save on, and she just put it right in.” 

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After the teams went through a feeling-out process throughout much of the first half, things finally started heating up in the final 12 minutes. 

St. Michael broke the stalemate in the game's 29th minute when Swingle broke in and sent a blast past Buscher for a 1-0 lead. 

“It was like a relief. Finally, we scored,” Swingle said. “We had energy at the beginning, but we had to get on the scoreboard.” 

St. Michael the Archangel goalkeeper Kayce Cooper, center, celebrates with her teammates after edging Lutheran South 2-1 in a Class 1 state semifinal Wednesday at World Wide Technology Soccer Park in Fenton, Mo.

The goal was Swingle's fourth in the last two games after the sophomore's hat trick against St. Joseph Bishop LeBlond in the quarterfinal and her 29th of the season. 

“Victoria is so good with the ball at her feet,” Kroening said. “When you don't think there's an opportunity, she makes it happen. She saw her opportunity, made the goalie have to make a play and she found the back of the net, which is what she's done all season long.” 

The Lancers nearly had the equalizer with just under two minutes left in the first half when Guardians goalkeeper Kayce Cooper punched Amy Ceko's free kick from 22 yards out over the crossbar. 

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St. Michael the Archangel's Katelyn Daugherty (39) punches the ball free at midfield past Lutheran South's Isabella Vandeloecht (20) in their Class 1 state semifinal Wednesday. Daugherty later scored the winning goal to lift the Guardians to a 2-1 win and into Thursday's state championship game.

Lutheran South was able to square things on the ensuing corner kick when Kaitlyn Osbourn's cross eventually found its way to Savannah Butterfield at the top of the box. The freshman's left-foot shot skidded along the turf and past a diving Cooper for her first high school goal and a 1-1 draw at the intermission. 

“We talked about having adversity and who would step up and rise above that adversity would be the team that continued on,” Kroening said. “So, we knew at halftime that we didn't want to be deflated. We needed to go out there and have effort, execution and enthusiasm.” 

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A light rain fell throughout much of the game and it made things treacherous at times, including a pair of occasions in the second half. 

On one occasion, St. Michael's Elena Stohr slipped just as she was delivering a corner kick. Moments later, Buscher slipped while attempting a goal kick and it nearly turned into a golden scoring opportunity for the Guardians. 

SMA did capitalize later on Daugherty's late tally and the Guardians defense did its job in keeping the Lancers at bay the rest of the way, including a long free kick by Butterfield with 30 seconds left, sending SMA on its way toward making history in the final. 

“It's gonna be so fun,” Daugherty said. “We're so pumped and ready to put up a fight.”