High School Sports

Revitalized Sayre shakes up girls’ soccer as districts begin

The Sayre girls’ soccer team looks to keep its special season rolling this week in the 42nd District Tournament that begins Monday at Frederick Douglass.

The Spartans (18-2-0) had perhaps their most successful regular season in program history and, as a second seed in the 42nd, could become the first Sayre girls’ team to make a regional since 2008.

“It’s really special, because I’ve never experienced a team like this who won 13 games in a row,” said junior Alexis Henry after a district win over Scott County this season. “We have to keep it going.”

To do that, the Spartans will have to beat Frederick Douglass a second time. The Spartans’ 2-0 defeat of the Broncos on Sept. 9 served notice that this edition at Sayre has stepped up its game over past seasons. Their semifinal match is set for Wednesday at 8 p.m.

“Honestly, we’re really working as a team now, and we have this connection, it’s kind of like a sisterhood, where we play for each other,” Henry said. “We have this connection on the field that really helps us excel in the game.”

Sayre has had four consecutive winning seasons under Coach Michael McKinney, but when it came to district play, the Spartans have struggled with no more than two district wins in that span against Henry Clay, Scott County, Douglass and Bryan Station.

“One of our goals this season was to get some district wins and get some region wins and we’ve done that,” McKinney said. The Scott County victory was their third win in district and sixth win in the region against only one loss. “I give it all to the players. They come. They work hard. They’re the best group of young ladies I think I’ve ever dealt with. They want to be here. They want to play soccer. They’re confident. It’s unbelievably special.”

The Spartans have five players with 11 or more goals, led by Allison Whitaker, a speedy junior who has 22 goals and 16 assists. Henry comes into the tournament with 19 goals and 16 assists, as well. That ranks them both among the top 30 assists makers in the state. All those assists set up Leah Keelen (15 goals), Maggie Little (14), Emma Samuel (11) and the team’s five other scorers.

Sayre also ranks third in team defense and has a keeper in Catherine Graves who’s among the state leaders in shutouts with nine.

The Spartans haven’t won a district title since they were in the 26th back in 2007. A win Wednesday would put them in their first regional since 2008.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do,” McKinney said. “We know there’s work left to be done and we don’t want to be done in districts.”

Henry Clay milestone

When Henry Clay defeated Bryan Station on Sept. 25, it marked Coach Mebit Aragaw’s 200th overall win as a high school coach in Kentucky.

Aragaw began his career as the Madison Central boys’ coach in 2002 where he went 45-21-5 in four seasons.

He’s been at Henry Clay since 2006, where he’s amassed a record of 156-83-34 with seven district titles and two region titles.

Boys’ and girls’ coaching records don’t combine on the all-time Kentucky High School Athletic Association list, but Aragaw’s totals for the Blue Devils would rank him 16th among girls’ coaches all-time once Henry Clay certifies them.

Tates Creek tops

In the 43rd District, Tates Creek (No. 1 in KHSAA RPI) rolls into the tournament with only two losses to two top opponents from elsewhere in the state (No. 4 Greenwood and No. 3 Sacred Heart) and on an eight-game win streak. Senior Shae Robertson leads the Commodores in scoring with 24 goals along with seven assists. Their first district game will be Tuesday against the winner between Lexington Christian and Lafayette.

42nd District Tournament

At Frederick Douglass. Finalists advance to regional.

Monday’s first round

6 p.m.: Scott County vs. Bryan Station

Wednesday’s semifinals

6 p.m.: Henry Clay vs. Scott County-Bryan Station winner

8 p.m.: Sayre vs. Frederick Douglass

Friday’s finals at 6:30 p.m.

43 District Tournament

At Lexington Catholic. Finalists advance to regional

Monday’s first round

6:30 p.m.: Lafayette vs. Lexington Christian

Tuesday’s semifinals

6 p.m.: Tates Creek vs. Lafayette-Lexington Christian winner

8 p.m.: Paul Laurence Dunbar vs. Lexington Catholic

Thursday’s finals at 6 p.m.

Jared Peck, the Herald-Leader’s Digital Sports Writer, covers high school athletics and has been with the company as a writer and editor for more than 19 years.
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