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SOCCER

Millard West, Omaha Marian meet at state tournament again, this time with title on line

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Stakes raised as rivals meet again

Millard West keeper Sydney Cassalia hasn’t allowed a goal since the Wildcats’ 4-0 loss to Omaha Marian on April 23. She played a key role in Saturday’s semifinal win against Millard North, stopping a penalty kick to notch her 14th shutout of the season. “She’s our rock,” Millard West coach Jacque Tevis-Butler said.

Five of the past six state title trophies reside in their halls.

Since 1998, they’ve played in 12 title matches. And won them all.

When two of Class A’s elites square off for all the marbles Tuesday night, those gaudy numbers will grow.

Third-ranked Omaha Marian meets No. 4 Millard West in the 8 p.m. girls final at Creighton’s Morrison Stadium, the fourth straight season the two have met at the state tournament.

But the first under the bright lights of a title match.

“Forget everything else that happened this season and show up with a clean slate,” Marian coach Amy Price said. “Different day.”

The Crusaders were the preseason favorite after winning the 2014 crown. They lost to Elkhorn South early in the year, then not again until an overtime setback to Millard West in the Metro Conference final.

Marian returned the favor in a big way 10 days later, knocking the Wildcats out of the top spot in the ratings with a 4-0 win. It was one of only two matches this season in which Millard West gave up more than one goal.

“I know the score doesn’t indicate it, but I didn’t think we played terribly,” Millard West coach Jacque Tevis-Butler said. “They got one late in the first half and the momentum just swung their way. It was just surreal that it was happening.”

The Crusaders have ground out a pair of 1-0 wins in the state tournament, generating goals in each on sequences that started on corner kicks.

“They’re just dangerous,” Tevis-Butler said of Marian. “Faith (Carter) is always a concern, but they’re getting goals from a lot of kids. And their set pieces are so good.”

Her side has been no slouch, either.

The Wildcats blitzed Bellevue West in the first round and knocked out crosstown rival Millard North in Saturday’s semifinals.

“The thing we’ve got to make certain we’re doing is going forward and making them work,” Tevis-Butler said. “The kids understand that we’re looking to possess the ball and play that kind of style. But I think sometimes that we do such a good job of possessing it that they forget that we’re still trying to score goals.”

The Wildcats — a “team of midfielders,” Tevis-Butler said — can sometimes be too unselfish with the ball. Nebraska recruit Brenna Ochoa moved up front and netted the winner Saturday.

Sophomore keeper Sydney Cassalia also played a large part in the semifinal victory, coming up with a stop on a penalty kick and notching her 14th shutout of the season.

“She’s our rock,” Tevis-Butler said.

CLASS A GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP

No. 3 Omaha Marian (16-3) vs. No. 4 Millard West (16-2), 8 p.m.: Of their five combined losses this season, two came to each other, two were to fellow semifinalist Millard North (one each) and one was to Class B No. 1 Elkhorn South. In their first regular-season meeting — the Metro Conference championship match — freshman Kenzie Coons scored in the first minute of overtime to lift Millard West. Less than two weeks later, Marian struck three times in the second half in a 4-0 win. Marian has slightly more offensive weapons. Millard West has the edge in the midfield. The difference? Millard West keeper Sydney Cassalia, an Army recruit, is locked in. She hasn’t allowed a goal since the loss to Marian on April 23. Needing extra time — and even kicks — would come as no surprise. If it gets to that point, the Wildcats have the edge.

THE PICK: Millard West 2, Omaha Marian 1, SO

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