The Cardinal Mooney High girls soccer team plays every possession as if it is its last.
But, for the Lady Cougars, the goal isn’t simply to push the ball straight up to the net — at least not if the opportunity does not present itself. Instead, every player has a specific job, which, in turn, if done correctly, creates a solidified unit on the field.
That’s not to say scoring goals has not become commonplace for Cardinal Mooney this season, but, for the Lady Cougars, this season is about more than just winning.
It is about instilling trust in one another to get the job done and ultimately propelling Cardinal Mooney toward its goal of reaching the Final Four for the first time in school history.
“This is the strongest we’ve ever been,” senior midfielder Anna Brusco says. “The variety of skill level that we have this year is (amazing), and we’ve been working hard on trying to be really close as a team.”
Cardinal Mooney opened its season with an 8-0 victory over rival The Out-of-Door Academy Oct. 29.
Since then, the Lady Cougars have recorded 12 more shutouts en route to a 15-3-0 overall record and a perfect 6-0 record in Class 2A-District 11.
In those 13 combined shutouts, Cardinal Mooney scored 99 goals and reached the eight-goal mercy rule in all but two of those contests.
“I didn’t expect us to be doing this well,” senior center midfielder Gabby Ojeda says. “We’ve always been pretty (dedicated) as a team, but the amount of goals we’ve scored this season has exceeded anything we’ve done in the past four years.
“We’re really dynamic with our plays,” Ojeda says. “We usually play part of a second half and that’s it (because of the mercy rule).”
Brusco and junior forward Rose Amato have combined for 41 of Cardinal Mooney’s 112 goals this season. Brusco also has a team-high 29 assists.
But, perhaps the most noticeable change to the Lady Cougars’ roster has been the addition of freshman forward Skylar Jungers, who attended ODA for lower school but decided to attend Mooney for high school. Jungers already has 18 goals and six assists in her first season at Cardinal Mooney.
“I knew Cardinal Mooney had a really strong program, so it’s kind of an honor to get to start as a freshman,” Jungers says. “I didn’t think we would be as good as we are, but we’ve gotten a lot better and progressed a lot.”
Cardinal Mooney’s three losses came in the first two weeks of the season at the hands of Braden River (Class 7A), Riverview (Class 8A) and Venice (Class 7A).
The Lady Cougars have won 11 straight matches since their loss to Venice Nov. 16 and earned the No. 1 seed in the district tournament. Cardinal Mooney opened its district tournament Jan. 14 with an 8-0 victory over Booker in the district semifinals.
With the win, Cardinal Mooney will play host to DeSoto County in the district championship Thursday night.
Now, the Lady Cougars hope to continue their run all the way to a state title.
“I think our success can be attributed to not only the dynamic way that we play, but also because we love the game and just the feeling of being on the field,” Ojeda says.
BY THE NUMBERS
112 - The number of goals Cardinal Mooney scored during the regular season.
10 - The number of matches Cardinal Mooney won due to the eight-goal mercy rule.
13 - The number of shutouts goalkeepers Lexi Barbour and Brooke Peterson combined for during the regular season.
3 - The number of players who have scored more than 15 goals for the Lady Cougars this season.
8 - The number of goals Cardinal Mooney allowed in its three losses this season.
0 - The number of district matches the Lady Cougars lost during the regular season.
Contact Jen Blanco at [email protected]