NDA returns to state with win in OT
By Greg Bates
SEYMOUR – Right before overtime was about to start, Emmett Lawton started to cramp up.
The Notre Dame Academy star soccer player knew just what to do.
He needed to resort to his go-to method to help cramps. His magical potion? Mustard. Yes, mustard.
Lawton got a mustard bottle from the concession stand and started squirting the condiment into his mouth.
“I can feel it, the trainer will stretch me, get the mustard in and once I start moving around again, the cramp is gone,” Lawton said.
Lawton’s cramp reliever technique was just what he needed.
Only 56 seconds into the overtime session of the WIAA Division 3 sectional final against No. 2-seeded Plymouth, Lawton scored his second goal of the game to give top-seeded Notre Dame a 2-1 lead. The Tritons then had to kill off the next 19 minutes, 4 seconds of overtime to earn a 2-1 win and a berth in their third straight state tournament.
Notre Dame coach Michael Prudisch has certainly heard about such methods as drinking pickle juice and consuming electrolytes to eliminate cramps. However, he had never heard about mustard until Lawton started downing it.
“We’ll have to bring some with us to state next weekend,” Prudisch joked.
The eventual game-winning goal capped off a comeback for Notre Dame and kept them unbeaten this season (18-0-4).
Lawton found himself in front of the net with a defender and the goalie. He put a header on net that the goalie made a diving save to his right, but Lawton got the rebound and finished.
Lawton, a senior, had a lot going through his mind before that goal.
“At the end, it’s like, do I want my career to end like this or not?” Lawton said. “Overtime, big period. But I’d say what helped is we were here sophomore year and junior year, so more of like a regular game — nerves weren’t as high as they could have been.”
During the regular season, Notre Dame beat Plymouth 1-0 on the road, so the Tritons were confident they could pull off another victory. However, even though play was dominated by Notre Dame, it was Plymouth that scored first at 29:23.
But a senior-laden Notre Dame squad regrouped at halftime with its season on the line.
Prudisch let his players take a breather at halftime and discuss things amongst themselves before he intervened.
“There are a lot of smart players on our team, so I like to give them a couple minutes to sort out things on their own,” Prudisch said. “A lot of time coaches get a little too involved with the direction of the team. But you’ve got to let the players kind of help dictate how are we going to approach the game, how are we going to come back from this. It helps build each other up, I think.”
Just 4 minutes, 38 seconds into the second period, Notre Dame’s Michael Kussow attempted a shot and the ball went off the hand of a Plymouth defender in the 18-yard box. A handball was called and a penalty shot was awarded to Notre Dame. Lawton took the uncontested shot and buried it in the back
of the net.
That changed the complexion of the game.
“When the momentum shifted, we came together and we just brought the energy back,” Notre Dame senior Thomas Geocaris said. “One goal after another, we just came back and won the game.”
“They went kind of from the aggressors to down in their heels a little bit,” Lawton said. “As both teams got tired, our amount of opportunities kind of picked up more and more.”
In overtime, Lawton notched his second goal of the game and 50 th of the season.
“Emmett’s doing his thing and scoring goals,” Prudisch said. “But a lot of it comes from the guys behind him doing all of the dirty work and putting him in positions to take advantage of those goals. It’s just a great team effort.”
Notre Dame heads down to the state tournament in Milwaukee as the odds-on favorites to win the program’s fourth state title and first since 2008. The last two times the Tritons have played in the state title game at Uihlein Park, they resulted in runner-up finishes.
Earning silver balls at state is a nice accomplishment, but it’s not what the Tritons shoot for every year.
“We go into the season with one thing in mind: gold ball,” Prudisch said. “A lot of teams will focus on conference or this and that, but we’re always gold ball only.”
This year’s 11 seniors have so much desire to get over the hump and bring home a state title. Last year, Notre Dame battled Shorewood in the championship that was scoreless after the overtime session. In the shootout, Notre Dame fell, 5-3.
“Losing last year just sucked, but we owe it back to the seniors,” Geocaris said. “They left an imprint on our hearts and now we’re just angry and we have a fire burning inside of us that we want to win and the gold ball’s going to be ours.”
After Saturday’s sectional final victory, Lawton was happy but not satisfied. He knows two more wins this season stand between him and complete happiness.
“Going to do some celebrating and whatnot today, but far less than the last two years,” Lawton said. “Head back down (to Milwaukee), lock back in. State’s just another location for games. When we’re holding the gold ball, we’ll do our celebrating then.”
Notre Dame, which is expected to receive the No. 1 overall seed at state, will play its state semifinal game on Friday with its opponent and time yet to be determined. The state title game is the next day at 7 p.m.