Notre Dame to square off with Catholic High in playoff opener

CROWLEY – It’ll be Notre Dame vs. Catholic High of New Iberia one more time.

Not only have the two parochial schools squared off this school year in the Class AAA football semifinals and two highly-competitive district soccer matches, but they will once again collide this Saturday in opening-round action of Division III state playoffs.

The two were paired against each other on Thursday when officials met to draw up the 2010 brackets. The game, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., will be played at Catholic High.

The Pios (9-3) will enter the match as the No. 18 seed; Catholic is No. 15.

“We’re up against a familiar opponent with Catholic of New Iberia,” said Notre Dame first-year had Coach Ryan Simon. “We know each other pretty well. We’ve played each other really close the last two games and we’re two pretty evenly-matched teams. This is going to be one heck of a game.”

In the two earlier meetings between the two teams, Catholic High won the first match 4-1 at home and Notre Dame won the second, 3-2, on its home field.

The other scheduled meeting between the two teams was set for the day after the Class 3A state football championship. Catholic refused to reschedule the contest resulting in a Notre Dame forfeit.

“I think going into it, we are going to come out very fired up,” said Simon. “Some of these teams are used to making the playoffs year after year. For our team, this is our first opportunity in quite some time and we’re going to make the best of it. We’re playing with a lot of heart and a lot of dedication.”

This will be Notre Dame’s first playoff appearance since the 2001-2002 season.

“It has been a rough time over the last decade for Notre Dame soccer,” said Simon. “The beginning of the decade was really good and then we’ve had some kind of lean years in the middle. But, this is the first year in a while that we’ve made the playoffs. All the kids have really worked hard. Our senior class has worked hard for four years to get to this point and I’m very proud of them for accomplishing their goals and making the playoffs.”

Offensively, the Pios have been sound all year long, scoring 39 goals in 12 games. Jonathan Besse leads the team with 20 goals and two assists. He is followed by Hunter Stover with seven goals and four assists, and Brandon Benoit with two goals and eight assists.

“We put the guys with the most background in soccer up front and it has paid dividends,” said Simon. “We have scored a lot of goals. We have a very athletic midfield and defense that limited the number of goals that were allowed on us as well as feeding the ball to our shooters up front.”

Notre Dame’s defense was also stellar during the regular season, allowing just 15 goals.

“We only gave up a little over a goal a game,” said Simon. “We have a strong group of seniors defensively, led by James Angelle, Sean Delahoussaye Brett Boulet and Austin Meche. They played our four main defensive positions and they really do a great job of limiting our opponents’ opportunities to score.”

Notre Dame goalie Tucker Kelly has also provided a spark defensively, collecting 50 saves on the season.

“Tucker is our last line of defense and he’s been doing an excellent job,” said Simon. “When you look at it, 50 saves isn’t the greatest number, but that’s also a big testament to our defense not allowing that many shots. By limiting the number of shots, it made Tucker’s job easier. And when they did get shots, Tucker did an amazing job of stopping the ball.”

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