CAPE GIRARDEAU -- On the same field they lost their first three games of the season, the unfazed Sikeston Lady Bulldogs bounced back with, arguably, the biggest win in the five-year history of the program.
Sikeston edged perennial district powerhouse Notre Dame 1-0 at Notre Dame Regional High School on Monday evening.
It was Sikeston's first-ever win over the Notre Dame Lady Bulldogs.
"We expect to win every game," said Sikeston coach Derrick Long. "It's awesome that we finally beat them, but we've got bigger things in mind for later on in the season, trying to win a district championship.
"We're going into these games expecting to win now, where this would have been a big thing two years ago."
Perhaps, it's still a big thing, coach.
Coming off an 0-3 start and a last-place finish in last weekend's Noon Optimist Soccer Tournament, Sikeston turned its early season around with the victory over previously undefeated Notre Dame, the tournament champion.
Sikeston's defense bent, but never broke as Notre Dame controlled the offensive action for most of the contest.
"Anything can happen," said Notre Dame coach Jeff Worley. "They (Sikeston) played very hard and we learned a good lesson today that we can take from it. Our effort wasn't bad, we just didn't finish some plays."
Stellar work in goal by Paige Silverthorn and an all-round solid defensive effort kept the home team off the scoreboard until Sikeston managed to net the game-winning goal.
Silverthorn recorded 15 saves, including a couple of spectacular ones, specifically, a juggling save of a Notre Dame header and a diving stop of a point-blank shot late in the game to preserve the one-goal margin.
"Outstanding," said Long, of Silverthorn's shutout game. "(She) made some great saves."
A couple of defensive adjustments proved key also.
"We played a little different tonight," Long said. "We put Abbi Keefer in the midfield with Jordi (Ferrell) and that gave her (Ferrell) a little more help at times. Our biggest weakness in the first three games was our midfield. We were just getting torn up in midfield. They were making runs through our defense. Putting Abbi in there solidified us and our outside girls played aggressive tonight. This is what I've envisioned all along. They're just starting to get into it a little.
"Then we only played three defenders (instead of four) in the back. We've really got three quality defenders with Katie DeLaRosa, Jennifer Millington and Laura Atchison. We keyed on their all-stater Merideth Medlin and Destiny Dirnberger. We figured, if we could just hold those two, we could keep them from scoring."
After a scoreless first half, Sikeston broke through at the 23-minute mark of the second half.
Ashley Angle scored the eventual gamewinner from about 10 yards out off a cross from Ferrell.
Said Long, "We've been working on crossing from the outside and that's what we scored on."
Sikeston, with relatively few good scoring opportunities throughout the game - seven shots on goal to 15 for Notre Dame - had an excellent chance to cushion its lead with 18 minutes remaining.
Allison Blurton's shot on a breakaway was blocked by Notre Dame goalie Claudia Brauss well forward in the box, but Ferrell's follow kick off the loose ball flew just over the goalpost.
Sikeston's junior varsity fared less well with a 2-0 loss to Notre Dame.
Sikeston (1-3) hosts Perryville, another district opponent, today at 5 p.m.
Perryville defeated Sikeston 2-1 in a first-round game of the Noon Optimist Tournament on Thursday.
In the Lady Bulldogs' final tournament game on Saturday, Farmington prevailed in a 3-2 overtime win. Blurton scored both Sikeston goals.