State soccer tourney up for grabs as West girls face Notre Dame
Normal West's Kirsten Boesen (22) prepares to kick the ball as Bloomington's Emily Kissel (7) closes in during a girls soccer game Thursday (May 1, 2008) at Community Fields in Bloomington. (Pantagraph/Joel Fellers)

MORTON - Despite not meeting during the regular season, today's 7 p.m. Morton Class AA Super-Sectional soccer match between Normal West and Peoria Notre Dame is a grudge match.

For the third time in as many seasons the Wildcats will meet the Irish to decide who will represent Central Illinois in the state tournament.

"It's going to be a great game," West coach Val Walker said. "We'll be ready for it."

Peoria Notre Dame played in its own sectional and defeated Peoria Richwoods 2-1 before downing Geneseo 3-0 to advance to today's match.

In the process of building the Wildcats' 25-0 record, Walker's confidence in his team has been constant.

"These girls are spectacular," Walker said. "I always said when they play to their potential they are unbeatable. I absolutely mean that."

Last season, West defeated the Irish 3-0 but ended up getting bounced in the first round at state by the eventual champions, Waubonsie Valley.

"We're so excited," West sophomore goalkeeper Erin McGinnis said. "We won last year so hopefully we can have the same results."

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In the 2006 season, Peoria Notre Dame edged Normal West 4-3 to make it to state. The Irish, too, were beaten in the first round of the state tournament.

After losing at state last year, the Wildcats have had their minds set on one thing this season.

"Our main goal is to win state," said sophomore Chelsea Smalley.

West is expecting a tough game from Notre Dame (17-2-2), but is still looking at the game as preparation for a greater goal.

"It's great playing Notre Dame," West senior Kayla Braffet said. "I love playing them. They're always a hard team. It's good to play that competition before we get up north and play the harder teams."

Throughout the season, the Wildcats have defeated each rival they have faced including Normal Community and U High. Today will be another rivalry game.

However, this late into the season, Braffet and the rest of the Wildcats are focusing on taking care of their business while mirroring the confidence of their coach.

"It's just one of those big games," Braffet said. "I'm not too worried about the other team. I'm just worried about us. If we play our game we can beat anyone."

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