August 15th, 2010

Sacred Heart Aiming For Soccer Four-Peat

Michael Shaw Mahoney

CSN Staff Writer

Sacred Heart Aiming For Soccer Four-Peat
photo by Bryan Lawson

Defending Kentucky girls soccer champs bringing the heat

The sun has only just breached the tree line and the heat is already infernal. It's 8:00 in the morning and Sacred Heart Academy's soccer coach Chris Moore leads his team through a scrimmage on a shortened field. The space is tight, intentionally tight. Moore urges the girls to make quick decisions, to communicate, to make that killer pass that will free up a teammate for a shot. He wants more shots, more opportunities.  And the girls want to be Kentucky state champions, again. 


Last fall Sacred Heart won its third consecutive state title, besting northern Kentucky's Notre Dame, another Catholic power, in a penalty shootout. Goalkeeper Maddie Peabody made some key saves to seal that victory. Now a senior, Peabody exudes confidence and purpose. She is encouraged by the younger players who have come through the ranks to replace a large, talented group of graduating seniors. 


"The first day of try-outs was good and we got to see the people who have improved over the summer and through their club season," Peabody said. Club soccer has grown by leaps and bounds in the United States, and like all successful programs, Sacred Heart features a slew of club players, their skills all honed in an extremely competitive club system. At times this school and club double-duty can put considerable strain on players and injuries are not uncommon.


Coach Moore is happy to have two key players who suffered ACL injuries last season back in the starting line-up. Devin Barnes returns on defense while playmaker Andrea Distler rejoins the team's creative midfield. Sacred Heart has been proactive about protecting its girls from serious, season-ending injuries. "The school just hired a trainer to come and work with the teams as well," Moore emphasized.


Attention to fitness and Sacred Heart's impressive facilities, augmented this summer by a new turf playing field, all speak to the school's determination to go from strength to strength. Last year's leading scorer, Lucy Chauvin, says of the turf, "It's better to play to feet, and we're used to playing long balls, so you definitely have to be in a lot better shape." Complacency and cockiness are nowhere in evidence at a Sacred Heart soccer practice. The Valkyries are focused, focused on winning a fourth consecutive state title, an accomplishment that would tie the school for a record now held by South Oldham High School.


When asked about defending their title, Moore said, "It's a tough thing to do. We had a lot pressure on our backs last year, but we're not feeling it as much this year. Right now the emphasis is more on getting better and getting ourselves in a position to try for it." A Trinity High School graduate, he credits Sacred Heart and Catholic education in general with making his job easier, with shaping mature, natural leaders, the kind of girls who lead by example and demand maximum effort from their teammates. 


As a perennial contender Sacred Heart always feels pressure from opponents keen to singe the champs.  Right now the soccer team is just trying to survive another pitiless Louisville August. "We definitely do a lot of stretching and hydrating," said Erin Feger, describing the down time between morning and evening practices. The girls are coolly going about their business during pre-season preparations. Coach Moore knows that peaking at the end of the season is key. That's when he expects the Valkyries to really bring the heat.        



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