Braving the cold, St. Thomas More girls soccer defeats Vandebilt Catholic in semifinals
As the horn sounded Friday in the Division II semifinals, the St. Thomas More girls soccer team lifted Mary Elise Quoyeser and carried her off the field.
Then they quickly ran towards the heated team bench.
They had just defeated Vandebilt Catholic 1-0 to advance to the state championship game, but getting warm was the only thing on their minds.
The temperature was 35 degrees during the match, which felt like 27 degrees. The wind was also a factor, topping 10 miles an hour. It's the coldest coach Daniel Underwood recalls it's been this far into the season during his tenure at St. Thomas More.
In a week that was disrupted by a rare ice storm, just getting in the game at all was a win. Schools across the region were closed all week as the area grappled with power and water outages. Games and events of all sports were rearranged because of the conditions, including the LHSAA Indoor track and field championships, which were pushed back a day to Sunday.
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The Cougars, though, were luckily still able to get workouts in this week. On Tuesday, they practiced on their turf, followed by sessions at the Carencro Sports Complex on Wednesday and Thursday.
On Friday, it was Quoyeser, a midfielder, who scored the only goal of the game. In the second half, the Cougars had to battle the wind, making it harder for them to advance.
"We've been telling her all season long to take shots," Underwood said of Quoyeser. "Even as far as making her play striker in practice."
After rushing to warm-up after the game, the Cougars did brave the cold for a little while longer to celebrate with their friends and family, who stood waiting for them with blankets and steamy cups of hot chocolate.
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Underwood said they will take the weekend off, then return Monday for a yoga or stretching session. They plan to do a push session on Wednesday before heading to Hammond on Friday.
"At this point we just want fresh legs going into the finals," he said.
Next week, in what's forecasted to be significantly warmer temperatures, the Cougars will have the chance to win their fourth straight Division II championship.
"They definitely have the experience and the knowhow and the talent," Underwood said. "If they win it'll be four, but for this group it'll be the first. That's what we focus on. This team and this year's group. It's definitely been a trying year, so to win it under these circumstances it'll be a little more special I'd say."