Cor Jesu 1, IWA 0 in 21st annual St. Dominic/Howell North ShootOut

Cor Jesu goalie Sam Bersett (00) stops an attempt on goal during the 21st annual St. Dominic/Howell North ShootOut on Saturday, April 28, 2012, at Francis Howell North High. Cor Jesu defeated Incarnate Word Academy 1-0 in regular play. Photo by Erik M. Lunsford

Erik M. Lunsford

Sam Bersett’s eyelids felt like 50-pound dumbbells. The senior goalkeeper for the Cor Jesu soccer team, Bersett was running on empty. She was between the pipes for the Chargers last Saturday when they took on top-ranked Incarnate Word in the championship match of the St. Dominic/Howell North Shootout. Bersett and her fellow seniors attended prom the night before. To make life that much more difficult, the team was missing 10 juniors who were at a mandatory school function. With about four hours of sleep and an energy drink pulsing through her veins, Bersett went out and played one of her best games of the season.

The 5-foot-10, 18-year-old goalkeeper left spectators’ jaws agape and endlessly frustrated the Red Knights as she made one dynamite save after another to help Cor Jesu score an improbable 1-0 win. It’s the first Shootout title for the Chargers after runner-up finishes in 2011 and 1999.

Cor Jesu standout midfielder Jenn Miller scored the only goal of the match less than 10 minutes in and Bersett made it stand up as she stood on her head in goal. “She had a fantastic game,” Miller says. “She’s been solid for us all year. (Saturday) made her stand out. She definitely changed the game for us.”

It was the eighth shutout for Bersett as the Chargers, a robust 13-2, continued to dominate defensively. Bersett says getting the early goal made her life easier because it allowed Cor Jesu to focus on defending. “That helped a lot,” she says. “Our whole team had a defensive mindset.”

As well as the Chargers defended, the Red Knights still had their opportunities. Bersett says that after she made the first big save to keep Incarnate off the board, her adrenaline went into overdrive and she didn’t feel as tired. “Before the game, I was so tired,” she says. “Adrenaline kicked in after awhile.”

The clock couldn’t run fast enough for Bersett and the Chargers. The Red Knights don’t go many matches without scoring. Last week’s loss to Cor Jesu was just the second time this season Incarnate had been shutout. Finding a way past their rival was huge for the Chargers. “It was so much fun getting that win,” Bersett says. “To be able to win the whole tournament was exciting.”

Cor Jesu has its eyes set on winning two more tournaments. The first is the district tournament and, if that goes well, the second would be the state tournament. But Bersett says the Chargers aren’t taking anything for granted and are not overlooking anyone or anything. The theme for the team this spring has been one day at a time. They focus on each practice, each drill and each game. “It’s been working out great,” Bersett says.

One thing that it hasn’t done, though, is make the season go slower. It’s actually gone by in a blink. The Chargers have only a handful of games left in the regular season and then it’s off to the district tournament. The seniors have tried to savor each moment as it comes, but the calendar keeps turning over. “We wish we could slow it down,” Bersett says. “The season has been great.”

When the season does come to an end, whenever that might be, Bersett will continue her playing career and education at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. She would like to pursue a degree in biomedical engineering and possibly turn that into a career in prosthetics. “I’ve always been interested in the medical field,” she says. “Math and science have always been interests of mine.”