High School Sports

Girls’ soccer: This season’s top teams, biggest games and best players

Tates Creek’s Shae Robertson (4) led the city in scoring with 31 goals last year as the Commodores claimed the 43rd District title. The team they beat, Lexington Catholic, exacted revenge a week later in the 11th Region finals and earned a spot in the state tournament. Meanwhile, Dunbar must replace Sophia Mitchell (8) and other key players on its front and back lines this season.
Tates Creek’s Shae Robertson (4) led the city in scoring with 31 goals last year as the Commodores claimed the 43rd District title. The team they beat, Lexington Catholic, exacted revenge a week later in the 11th Region finals and earned a spot in the state tournament. Meanwhile, Dunbar must replace Sophia Mitchell (8) and other key players on its front and back lines this season. aslitz@herald-leader.com

With a team some thought might be too inexperienced, Tates Creek almost pulled off what would have been an incredible run to the 11th Region girls’ soccer title last year.

“We kind of exorcised some demons,” Commodores’ head coach Ally Tucker said. “There were some teams that we had not been able to beat for the last three or four years. To kind of get that monkey off of our back takes a little pressure off.”

The difference last year came down to Lexington Catholic’s big-game background as the two-time defending 11th Region champion turned a 2-0 second half deficit in the region finals into a 3-2 overtime victory.

Tucker believes her team has learned both from that loss and its own big-game moments in postseason wins over teams like Paul Laurence Dunbar, Henry Clay and, yes, LexCath (who they beat for the 43rd District crown a week earlier). An end-of-regular-season 0-0 tie against eventual state champion West Jessamine also helped.

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This year, the Commodores seem poised to be a team whose moment is now.

“I think they have a quiet confidence about them,” Tucker said. “Last year, we felt like we exceeded expectations a little bit and got a little further than maybe we expected. … Getting there before doesn’t ensure anything, especially in our district and our region, but experience is invaluable.”

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Tates Creek’s Carsyn Prigge (2), shown going up against Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Alison O’Hara (5) last year, suffered a season-ending knee injury during a preseason camp ahead of her junior season. She will have surgery next month and will continue to help the team on the sidelines and at practice, Coach Ally Tucker said. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Creek will have to overcome the loss of junior midfielder Carsyn Prigge, who suffered a devastating knee injury five minutes into a preseason camp.

“It’s not one player that has to step in and do what Carsyn did. That’s asking too much of anyone,” Tucker said. “We feel like we’ve got 18 to 20 players who, at any given moment in any game, can contribute.”

Prigge, who’s expected to have surgery next month, sports a full leg brace as she paces around with the team at practice. Tucker has dubbed her a student assistant coach and put her to work.

“She’s always kind of been a coach, too …,” said Abbey Bischoff who anchors a senior-filled back line. “She just won’t be with us (on the field).

The city’s other contenders have questions they’ll need to solve by tourney time. Lexington Catholic will be playing for the first time in four years without Kennedy Tranter at forward, while Dunbar must get used to a new coach in Megan Poage and an entirely new front and back line.

Still, the 11th Region won’t be a picnic. It never is.

“I think it’s who gets hot at the right time,” Tucker said. “Some of that’s a little bit of luck. Some of that’s who manages to stay healthy. … We’ll see where we are at the end. If we’re in the mix then you’ve got a chance, and that’s all you can hope for.

Big-time players

At Tates Creek, Bischoff’s future Morehead State teammate and all-state forward Shae Robertson led the city with 31 goals last season and will be getting help up top from junior forward McKensey Bunch, who is back from her own knee injury, and senior Alex Smith. They also have the luxury of senior track and cross country standout Jenna Strange as a relentless defender.

Lexington Catholic senior speedsters Alexis Burdine and Dominique Morris will combine up top for the Knights, but play will filter through all-around junior standout Maggie Corbett in midfield, a first-team all-city selection last year who has started everywhere during her career.

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Lexington Catholic wants the ball on Maggie Corbett’s (13) foot as much as possible while Lexington Christian depends on Grace Jacobs (16) to anchor its defensive back line. Matt Goins

“Maggie is a player where if things aren’t working in one area, we put her there,” Coach Terry Quigley said. “She plays every position well. … The reason she plays midfield (primarily) is that we want her to have the ball on her foot as often as we can.”

Henry Clay graduated most of its offense and will be looking for solid play out of its more experienced back line, including seniors Kori Beaumont and Elisabeth Hundley. Senior midfielder Annie Cox will be the focal point for a possession-oriented offense.

Lafayette looks for more goals from senior forward Brenna Wallin in combination with emerging sophomore midfielders Ella Abraham and Sara Hall.

“I love her touch, her tenacity and her eye for the goal,” third-year coach Taylor Roden said of Wallin. “She’ll play midfield for me when I want her to, but when I turn her loose up top, she’s going to get me a goal.”

Senior defender Grace Jacobs, a second-team all-city selection last year, anchors Lexington Christian’s defense. “She’ll be our rock this season,” first-year coach Casey Greer said. On the other end “feisty” junior forward Riley Fairchild aims to hassle opposing back lines.

Paul Laurence Dunbar boasts all-state senior keeper Morgan Turcotte, who likely won’t play until late August as she recovers from an injury. “It’s a work in progress,” first-year coach Megan Poage said. “She’s taking care of herself and getting healthy.”

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Paul Laurence Dunbar’s Meron Roach (15) cleared the ball away from Tates Creek’s Alex Smith (15) during their 43rd District semifinal last year. Both players will be a big part of each team again this season. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

The Bulldogs graduated a ton of experience and talent, many with Division I offers, but Poage says seniors Audrey Rawls and Meron Roach are ready to get the ball moving forward with the help of sophomore LCA transfer Carmen Combs.

Big-time games

Lafayette at Lexington Christian, Aug. 20: The Generals have not won a 43rd District game since 2013. To boot, they’ve faced LCA in five of the last six district tournaments and been knocked out in the first round by the Eagles in four of those. If Lafayette is to take the next step forward for Roden, it has to be at the expense of the Eagles.

Lady Knights Challenge Cup, Sept. 11-15: Want a state tournament preview? Lexington Catholic’s mid-season tourney is as close as it gets, featuring last year’s “District of Death” winner Tates Creek, defending 7th Region champ Sacred Heart, defending 8th Region champ Simon Kenton, 9th Region power Highlands, last year’s state finalist Notre Dame, and host and 11th Region champ LexCath.

Bryan Station at Frederick Douglass, Sept. 19: A budding 42nd District rivalry in every sport, this year is another battle between renovation and construction projects.

Tates Creek at Lexington Catholic, Sept. 24: Does Creek have what it takes to end the Knights’ run of three straight 11th Region titles? These teams will undoubtedly meet at least once more in October with their seasons on the line.

Paul Laurence Dunbar at Tates Creek, Sept. 26: This 43rd District showdown pits two of the deepest, most talented public school teams in the city. Dunbar’s postseason aspirations run directly through this match.

West Jessamine vs. everybody: The two-time defending state champions go to Dunbar on Aug. 29, take on Henry Clay on neutral ground at Tates Creek on Sept. 29, and host the Commodores Oct. 3.

Rebuilding Station

After three straight winning seasons, Bryan Station took a massive hit in player participation after redistricting created neighboring Frederick Douglass. The Defenders went 3-10-3 with a team that had only 17 players in training during preseason last year.

First-year Coach Kenyon Matthews wasn’t hired until late June, but he’s working on building numbers up from 10 at tryouts to 15 in training to, with luck, at least 18 for varsity after school starts. He had to cancel this season’s JV program.

“I’m just going to focus on coming in this season being positive and not trying to worry about any of the control-ables that I have no control over,” Matthews said.

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Bryan Station’s Hannah Muncie dribbled against Jocelyn Reynolds during a practice drill Aug. 2. Muncie and Reynolds are freshmen and probable starters on a very young Defenders’ team this season. Matt Goins

He’ll build around a freshman two-sport standout and Spanish immersion magnet student Hannah Muncie, who could have jumped ship to her home district (Douglass) or Henry Clay’s magnet program.

“I’m in Spanish immersion, so, my heart has been at Bryan Station,” said Muncie who plays soccer and softball in high school and club. “I’m looking forward to seeing how we improve ball-handling skills for one thing and just bonding as a team and trying to grow the program more.”

Redistricting happens, and Bryan Station’s other athletic programs have been able to weather it. Matthews believes he can get it done with girls’ soccer, too.

“High school soccer can have great years for a couple of years and then be completely wiped out,” Matthews said. “I just tell them that we’re all in this together. I have the tools. They have the tool belt. We’ll put them together and see what we have. … We’re all committed, so we’ll go from there.”

City team-by-team

BRYAN STATION DEFENDERS

Coach: Kenyon Matthews (first season).

Last season, 42nd District: 3-10-3 (15 GF/31GA*), Lost 2-0 in district semis to Scott County.

Outlook: With a team that will still be filling roster spots after school starts, the focus is on player development. “I think the biggest challenge is our numbers. We’re going to be pretty light,” Matthews said.

Player’s take: Freshman forward Hannah Muncie — “I’m excited to see what (Coach Matthews) does with the program. We mesh really well. There’s no drama. We’re all really good friends.”

Twitter: #StationNation

FREDERICK DOUGLASS BRONCOS

Coach: Megan Adkins (second season).

Last season, 42nd District: 1-18-2 (14 GF/73 GA), Lost 1-0 in district first round to Sayre.

Outlook: Douglass remains “super young — lots of freshmen, lots of sophomores,” Adkins said, but “that’s what you get when you build a program.” The Broncos should be in more games and get a few more wins with the inaugural season under their belt.

Player’s take: Sophomore goalkeeper Maliya Crump — “It has gotten a lot better this season. … I feel a lot more confident this year than I did last year. We’ve had lots of little tournaments and stuff and we’ve done really well.”

Twitter: @fdhssoccergirls

HENRY CLAY BLUE DEVILS

Coach: Mebit Aragaw (13th season).

Last season, 42nd District champion: 17-3-0 (68 GF/16 GA), lost 2-0 in 11th semis to Tates Creek.

Outlook: The Blue Devils lost a ton of offense last year but retain most of their defense. “Even though we don’t have the speed like last year, we’ve got a lot of good players who can carry us,” Aragaw said.

Player’s take: Senior midfielder Annie Cox — “We’re going to have our opportunities for sure … We’re going to be able to work the ball really well together through the middle and get the attack started.”

Twitter: @HCHS_Athletics

LAFAYETTE GENERALS

Coach: Taylor Roden (third season).

Last season, 43rd District: 7-11-1 (34 GF/43 GA), lost 3-1 in opening round of district to Lexington Christian.

Outlook: Three years into the build and Roden believes she has her most balanced and technical team yet, with senior leaders in the back, middle and top. “We’ve got a solid group of seniors. They’ve all set the pace early on.” The program’s first district win since 2013 is within reach.

Player’s take: Senior defender Becca Armstrong — “I think going into this year, we were a little nervous because we lost some key players, but being able to come together as a team and fill those gaps has made us stronger.”

Twitter: @Soccer_Generals

LEXINGTON CATHOLIC KNIGHTS

Coach: Terry Quigley (27th season)

Last season, 11th Region champion out of 43rd District: 18-8-0 (69 GF/31 GA), lost 4-1 in semi-state opener to Notre Dame.

Outlook: It will take a total team effort for the three-time 11th Region champs to best this year’s batch of rivals in the 43rd. The question is whether they can find enough goals against emerging rivals.

Player’s take: Senior midfielder Tori McLaughlin — “It’s tough. With Dunbar and Creek (in the district), it’s hard. But I think we’ll do well. We’ve been playing really well together (this preseason). We just have to work on getting (the ball) up there and taking shots.”

Twitter: @LexCathSports

LEXINGTON CHRISTIAN EAGLES

Coach: Casey Greer (first season).

Last season, 43rd District: 10-7-1 (46 GF/37 GA) lost 4-0 in district semis to Lexington Catholic.

Outlook: With only two seniors, “We are very, very young this year.” Greer said. Greer played and assistant coached at LCA for Steve Fugmann, who switched over to the boys’ team. This year, she’ll begin trying to “put back into the program what they put in me. It was probably one of the most favorite times in my life.”

Player’s take: Senior midfielder Madeline Pulliam — “This year is going to be about working together because we lost so many seniors last year. … It’s going to be about building each other up. We’re setting the standard for the younger people.”

Twitter: @LCAGirlsSoccer

PAUL LAURENCE DUNBAR BULLDOGS

Coach: Megan Poage (first season).

Last season, 43rd District: 10-5-3 (38 GF/14 GA), lost 3-2 on penalty kicks in district semis to Tates Creek.

Outlook: A new coach and new energy could make Dunbar feel more like a reload than a rebuild. “The girls coming back know, ‘OK, we’ve got to put in that much harder, that much more work.’ … Their drive and their want is awesome.” Poage said.

Player’s take: Senior midfielder Audrey Rawls — “We have Coach Poage, now, and she’s been amazing. … She’s brought a lot of positivity, and I feel the team bonding together.”

Twitter: @pldgirlssoccer

SAYRE SPARTANS

Coach: Michael McKinney (fifth season).

Last season, 42nd District: 9-7-1 (34 GF/20 GA), lost 5-0 in district semis to Henry Clay.

Outlook: Sayre’s roster carries 12 sophomores, but McKinney likes the mix of talent. “I’m looking forward to continued improvement, just building on where we left off last year,” he said. The Spartans come off back-to-back winning seasons.

Player’s take: Senior Caroline Hager — “We’re really new, but we seem to be competing. We’re not getting blown away at any point. So, think that’s what I’m most excited about. We have a lot of new players, and it’s fun to learn with them.”

Twitter: @SayreSpartansAD

TATES CREEK COMMODORES

Coach: Ally Tucker (third season).

Last season, 43rd District champions: 14-7-2 (57 GF/32 GA), lost 3-2 in overtime in the 11th Region finals to Lexington Catholic.

Outlook: Takes Creek has high expectations, as any program with a state title banner (2012) would and all the pieces for a deep tournament run. “We really don’t put too much pressure on ourselves,” Tucker said. “It’s not about thinking about the end product, right now. We’re just trying to take it day by day.”

Player’s take: Injured junior midfielder Carsyn Prigge — “It’s not just their abilities on the field (that makes this team special), it’s just about how great everyone is to each other. Everyone rallied around me and helped me. … We’re just a great team to each other.”

Twitter: @CreekNationWS

*GF: Goals For/GA: Goals Against

West Jessamine wins its second straight girls’ soccer state championship.

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