Lady Crusaders head to Final Four on a roll

Sydnee Kliethermes of Helias is all smiles as she watches her shot roll into the net against Carl Junction during Saturday’s quarterfinal game at the 179 Soccer Park.

Sydnee Kliethermes of Helias is all smiles as she watches her shot roll into the net against Carl Junction during Saturday’s quarterfinal game at the 179 Soccer Park. Photo by Shaun Zimmerman.

It may have taken awhile, perhaps longer than they would like.

But the Helias Lady Crusaders enter this afternoon’s Class 2 soccer semifinal with all the pieces in place.

“We just stuck with it,” Helias coach Brad Dempsey said. “There were times we were wondering if it would get to where we wanted it to be, but we kept at it and we got there.

“It says a lot about the character of our team that we got there.”

“There” is Blue Springs High School, where Helias (16-8) will take on the Rosati-Kain Kougars (18-6-1) in a 2 p.m. contest.

Dempsey is in his first year with the Lady Crusaders and he attributes some of Helias’ losses to the team attempting to figure out a different system.

“It’s the maturation process, learning a new style of play and clicking as a group,” he said. “That took some time.”

After dropping its regular-season finale to Hickman, Helias has rattled off four straight victories in the postseason. The Lady Crusaders routed the Carl Junction Bulldogs 9-0 in the quarterfinals Saturday at the 179 Soccer Park.

“We saw on Saturday what we’re capable of doing,” Dempsey said. “We put the ball in the net because we started playing our style. We weren’t hoping or wishing for something to happen, we were making it happen.”

Like the Lady Crusaders, the Kougars aren’t bringing a gaudy record into the Final Four.

“They play a very tough schedule which I think is comparable to ours,” Dempsey said.

In the regular season, Rosati-Kain left the St. Louis area just once to play and that was a trip to the Capital City Invitational. After having its game against Jefferson City called off due to rain, Rosati-Kain blanked Moberly (3-0) and Springfield Glendale (2-0) on the second day of the event.

The Kougars, who will bring an eight-game winning streak into the semifinal, are averaging almost four goals per contest with a balanced attack. Kady Dieringer, a senior midfielder, leads the team with 13 goals and is tied with the team lead in assists with 11. Brittany Shollar (12) and Sarah Gerwell (11) also have double-digit goal totals.

On the defensive side, the Kougars have 14 shutouts and are allowing less than a goal per game. Katy Kessler, a senior, has 12 of those blankings in net.

“We’re going to have to be very strong defensively and hopefully control the pace of the game,” Dempsey said.

Both Helias and Rosati-Kain were in the Final Four last year. Helias took third, falling to St. Dominic in the semifinals before beating Smithville. Rosati-Kain was second, losing to St. Dominic 1-0 in the title game.

“We’re not going down there to be satisfied by just getting back there again,” Dempsey said. “This is an opportunity to get a state championship, the first in the history of this program.”

The other semifinal will pit St. Dominic (24-0-1, ranked No. 1 in Missouri and in the nation) against Kearney (26-0, No. 2 in Missouri) at 4 p.m. Just looking at their rankings and records, some might look at that game as the title contest.

“People can say that, but we’re going down there to show what we can do,” Dempsey said. “We want to prove to them that isn’t necessarily the case.

“A win-loss record is a win-loss record. It’s going to come down to two games that will decide it. You want to beat the best to be the best. We’re going to do everything we can to accomplish that.”

Helias and St. Dominic met earlier this season, with St. Dominic posting a 1-0 victory at the 179 Soccer Park.

Action will continue Saturday with the third-place game at 10 a.m. and the title contest at 2 p.m.

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