THE Quincy Notre Dame girls soccer team accomplished what it set out to do this season -- capture a second straight Illinois Class 1A state championship.
The Raiders lived up to their preseason billing as the odds-on favorite to repeat by easily defeating Belleville Althoff 4-0 in the semifinals and Winnetka North Shore Country Day 5-1 in the title game.
Those dominating performances enabled Notre Dame to win back-to-back state titles for the second time -- the 2012 and 2013 teams also accomplished that feat -- and run its number of state championships won since 2010 to five.
The remarkable run this decade has clearly established QND, which has won an impressive 530 games during the past 29 seasons, as one of the premier high school programs in Illinois.
Just how dominating were the Raiders this spring?
They outscored their seven postseason opponents 46-3 to finish with 150 goals, tying the single-season Illinois High School Association record set by the 2000 QND team that placed fourth in the single-class state tournament.
That was made possible because the Raiders had five players score in double figures, with all-state midfielder Olivia Dreyer leading the way with 25 goals to go along with 13 assists. Hannah Peters added 20 goals and 13 assists. Meanwhile, QND posted a school-record 22 shutouts in 31 games.
The Raiders have now compiled an impressive 50-4-3 record the past two seasons. And as Herald-Whig Senior Sports Writer Matt Schuckman pointed out, another state tournament run could be in the cards in 2019, even if the program is bumped up to Class 2A because of the IHSA's success factor.
Why? QND had three sophomore starters this season, and two other sophomores played significant minutes. Both goalkeepers return, and three freshmen who saw time will be back.
All will carry with them the experiences and expectations of this season.
For now, however, we salute the 2018 Quincy Notre Dame Raiders and coach Mark Longo on yet another championship season.
They represented themselves, their school and their community well in achieving a milestone they will remember for the rest of their lives.