By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
NORMAL, Ill. – The end result turned out the same.
Yet, how the Quincy Notre Dame boys soccer team beat Chicago F.W. Parker this time was decidedly different, largely because of a defense senior sweeper Luke Mayfield said experienced a huge change over the last eight weeks.
The change came down to maturity.
"We're just more solid," Mayfield said after the Raiders beat the Colonels 2-0 – the same score as when they met Sept. 2 at Boots Bush Park in Quincy – in Friday's semifinals of the Class 1A state tournament at The Corn Crib. "We know when to go get the ball and when to contain.
"Our trust level is just way up there. We know what each other is doing at all times without looking."
Against the Colonels, they played a game of denial.
F.W. Parker finished with six shots on goal, although there was only one that really tested QND keeper Mark Anderson. Colonels midfielder Ian Forrest forced Anderson to make a save 13 minutes into the game with a hard, low shot, one of only three attempts F.W. Parker's leading scorer could muster.
"I thought they stepped up and played much, much higher up-tempo, high-pressure defense," F.W. Parker coach Neil Curran said of QND's defense.
It took Forrest and senior midfielder Max Jones out of the flow. Jones didn't play in the teams' first meeting, and he was largely ineffective because of the marking of Parker Reis and Jason Darnell.
"It just limited their opportunities," QND coach Greg Reis said.
QND's wing defenders did an even better job of not giving up space.
"Ian and Max just couldn't seem to find anybody," Curran said.
That allowed Mayfield to carefree.
"Honestly, I don't think I got pressured at all going through the middle," Mayfield said. "They came through the wings and we stopped them at the wings. They knew when to challenge for the ball and when to just drop back and play defense."
That was a stark contrast to Tuesday's super-sectional when the Raiders allowed a season-high three goals in the 4-3 overtime victory against Columbia. It made QND refocus its efforts on its defense.
"The blip giving up three goals was a little eye opener, a little reality check," Greg Reis said.
It was also a challenge, one the Raiders proved they could handle.
"They did a good job of snuffing stuff out," Greg Reis said.
It's understood that's what they need to do.
"We all know where we need to be and we need to cover each other," senior defender Drew Ellerman said. "We didn't really give them many chances when we played them earlier in the year, but we knew we had to win it again. The defense stayed strong."
It has to stay strong at least 80 more minutes to make the effort complete.