Photo/James Pugh

For 40 minutes, Sacred Heart and St. Andrew’s played a competitive match for Saturday’s Class 1A/2A/3A State Girls Championship. But the Lady Saints were simply delaying the inevitable—a flurry of goals for the opposition. The result? A 2-0 victory and a fourth straight state title for the Lady Crusaders. 

“It never gets old,” Sacred Heart coach Joe Falla Sr. said. “This feeling right here right now is just like the first one.”

For Sacred Heart, the scoreless first half was highlighted by shots either clanking off the goalpost or missing wide. Sophomore Olivia Ware, the hero from Sacred Heart’s 2016 title win, was one of several Lady Crusaders who missed on scoring opportunities. 

“I was really frustrated because I had that first almost-goal in the first half,” Ware said. “But at the same time, I was just ready to get back out there and for the whole team to work to get a goal.”

It took only five minutes to see results. In the game’s 45th minute, Ware sent a ball over the St. Andrew’s goalkeeper, giving Sacred Heart a 1-0 lead. Though there was ample time for the Lady Saints to answer, Falla knew Ware’s shot was the dagger. 

“I knew once we scored one, it was going to be over with,” he said. “We had it going.”

 

 

Indeed. Nearly 10 minutes later, the Lady Crusaders tacked on another courtesy of one of their four seniors, Blair Viator, who missed most of her junior season with a torn ACL. 

“We felt the goals coming,” Viator said. “We weren’t really playing our game like we expected to. We had to come out with more one-touch passes, and we came out in the second half with a different strategy. It worked well.

“It feels amazing. I can’t put it into words how this feels.”

Shortly after Viator’s goal, Sacred Heart goalkeeper Jillian Hall made one of her several saves on the day.

“My goalkeeper is a young kid,” Falla said. “I can’t say enough about her.”

Hall is one of many players who will return for Sacred Heart next season as they chase a fifth straight state championship. 

“We gotta work hard at it,” Falla said. “There’s always a lot of work to get started.”

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