Mehlville soccer team drops 2-1 decision to Notre Dame in District No. 2 quarterfinal
For the past several years, opposing teams would joke about the Mehlville Senior High School girls' soccer team.
They would look at the Panthers on their schedule and quickly label the game as an easy win. That wasn't the case this year.
The Panthers (9-10, 2-6 Suburban West) got what they were looking for from their opponents, which was a little respect.
In fact, several teams found themselves on the receiving end of Mehlville's five shutouts this season.
Head coach Scott Jackson took over the reins of the program after heading up the boys' squad for the past several years and invigorated the team with a new attitude.
"They (the girls) started off not believing that they had the opportunity to win as many games as they did," Jackson told the Call.
"What we tried to do was put the right players in the right spots to give us the opportunity to win,'' he added.
Unfortunately, the Panthers' season came to an end in the quarterfinal of the District No. 2 tournament as they dropped a 2-1 decision to Notre Dame.
The Panthers struck first on a goal by freshman midfielder Jessica Bartolacci to give Mehlville a 1-0 lead.
Bartolacci's goal was her first of the season and it appeared to catch the Rebels offguard, according to Jackson.
"It was like someone turned on a switch once we scored," Jackson said. "I told the girls that they (Notre Dame) would probably be the best team we've played all season."
Bartolacci was among four freshmen who joined the varsity ranks this season and Jackson believes that the future of Mehlville soccer begins with players like her and midfielders Christy Capkovic and Kelly Ferner along with goalkeeper Michelle Smith.
"She (Bartolacci) got a lot of playing time throughout the season," Jackson said. "We always joke with her that she seems to play better when her boyfriend is at the games.
"She had gotten into the game and got the ball and shot it from about 17 to 18 yards out. She floated it (the shot) right past the keeper,'' the coach added.
The Panthers lose four seniors through spring 2004 graduation this season in midfielders Kaitlyn Deutsch and Karen Hines along with defenders Catrina Dittman and Amber Westray.
Yet they return 16 for the 2005 campaign, which is a good formula for success next season — that is, with a little hard work in the offseason, according to their head coach.
"Hopefully this is something to build on," Jackson said.
"I'm going to tell the girls that if they don't do anything between now and the beginning of next season, they'll only be as good as they were,'' he added.