Sabers moving on to spot in Sweet 16

Sabers moving on to spot in Sweet 16

DECATUR — The shutouts have happened at a rapid rate for the St. Thomas More girls' soccer team.

Just like the wins.

The Sabers added to both categories Tuesday with a 3-0 win against Hillsboro in a Class 1A Decaur Lutheran Sectional semifinal match.

"Defense wins championships. We always say that corny motto," STM coach James Johnson said with a laugh. "We've kind of went all in on that one, though."

That's OK. It's worked.

The Sabers (20-4-1) notched their 15th shutout of the season, stifling Hillsboro (13-6-1) and advancing to Friday's sectional title match in the process. STM, which reached 20 wins for the first time in program history, will face either Carlinville (15-2-1) or Warrensburg-Latham/Maroa-Forsyth (13-5-1) in the Sweet 16.

Those two teams meet at 4 p.m. today and will face an STM program that has won 10 of its last 11 matches.

"We felt like we didn't play our best soccer, either, on Tuesday," Johnson said. "It's always good to get a win, and there's no bad win in the playoffs, but we were fortunate at times."

Hayes Murray scored two goals and Emma Blomberg added the other tally, with Izzy Schmitt and Dana Hergenrother picking up assists.

All in front of a defense, led by goalie Brianna Hopper, that is clicking at the moment.

"I give a lot of credit to our defense for being so versatile this year," said Johnson, citing contributions from Kayley Schacht, Grace Aubry, Bridget Delorenzo and Hergenrother, among others, for their defensive prowess this season. "If you can defend, you'll be in the game."