OMAHA — Class B No. 1 Norris defeated No. 5 Lincoln Lutheran/Raymond Central twice in two weeks leading up to the girls state soccer tournament.
The third act was a lot like the previous two.
The Titans scored three goals in the first half en route to a 3-1 win over the Warriors in a first-round game Wednesday at Morrison Stadium.
Playing three head-to-head matches in such a short time only added to the competitive spirit between the teams.
“It’s tough because they get to know you so well, and you get to know them so well,” Norris coach Arnold Talero said. “It becomes harder and harder. (Lincoln Lutheran/RC) is coached very well, so they have a great game plan every single time, so we have to be ready.”
Prior to last season, Norris had yet to make a state semifinal in three previous state tournament appearances. But, now, the Titans are through to the semis in back-to-back years.
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Playing at Morrison Stadium a year ago was a learning experience that helped pave this season's path.
“I think the players knew what to expect,” Talero said. “It’s just part of growth. Being here last year and playing a lot was new to us.
“This year is a little bit different. We have grown from what we did last year. So we feel pretty good with where we are at right now and going into Saturday.”
Norris was on the scoreboard inside of the first 15 minutes with Ella Klein's goal before Grace Kohler doubled the lead with five minutes to play in the first half.
Sophie Talero made it three at the first-half buzzer on an assist from Reese Borer.
“I just saw my teammate Reese with the ball, and I could try to make a run for it,” Sophie Talero said. “But that was all her. That was a great ball and I just tapped it in at the end.”
High temperatures played a role in the match. Norris had 13 shots in the first half, but just three in the second half.
“The heat took its toll on us in the second half because we slowed down a little bit,” Arnold Talero said. “But I think in the first half we really possessed the ball well on the big field. We moved it around, and then once we have the opportunities and we were just putting pressure on them and really crashing the goal.”
Sierra Springer scored the lone goal for the Warriors on a penalty kick in the final minute of the match. Lincoln Lutheran/RC finishes its season 11-5.
Bennington beat Omaha Duchesne 3-1 in the final first-round match of the day. In just their second appearance, the No. 7 Badgers are on to the state semifinals.
Two second-half goals from Mallory Minturn keyed Bennington's win.
Minturn finished off a through ball from Taylor McFalls to take the lead with 16 minutes to play. Her second goal finished off the game with nine minutes remaining.
“We had her starting and then we realized she’s really our spark plug off the bench, kind of that secret weapon that not a lot of people see,” Bennington coach Alex Saunders said. “She comes in, lights it up for us and gives us that momentum to keep going."
Mia Hurt gave the Badgers the lead in the first minute before Duchesne’s Janie Peterson equalized just before the break.
Norris and Bennington will play Saturday at 2 p.m. in the semifinal. Norris won the lone regular-season matchup 1-0.