One perfect moment propelled No. 9 Lexington Catholic to an upset 1-0 win over No. 1 Tates Creek on Thursday in the 11th Region girls’ soccer finals at Madison Central’s Memorial Stadium.
Locked in a grinding midfield battle all night, the Knights earned the first corner kick of the game more than 66 minutes into the contest.
The Commodores, who had beaten LexCath in the 43rd District finals last week and in their regular-season match last month, cleared the initial danger, but the ball played back to LexCath sophomore Laura Banahan, who had time to consider her options in a dangerous area.
Banahan passed a looping ball onto the top of the 18-yard box where Sophie Skinner, one of the shortest players on the field, headed it down into the path of teammate Emily Scanlon.
“The ball that Laura hit was just perfectly to my head. It was an easy one to get with her passing it like that,” Skinner, also a sophomore, said. “I knew there was a defender in front of me, and I knew Emily would be in the middle. I was just trying to hit it toward her because with her shot, I know she’s going to put it in.”
Scanlon took a touch off her chest, got a short bounce and caught it clean on her front laces for a chip over Tates Creek’s keeper and just under the crossbar.
“It was just a big rush,” said Scanlon, the third and final sophomore involved in the scoring play. “I knew I had to keep my composure. I knew we needed to score because we were running out of time, and I just … (smiling broadly) yeah.”
Tates Creek tried to turn up the pressure from there, but LexCath, who like their city rivals had been severely limiting chances and disrupting passing lanes throughout the match, continued to frustrate the Commodores’ attack.
“I think my team played like I expected. I always thought we were good,” LexCath Coach Terry Quigley said. “I think at one point you asked me what was the turning point (this season), and I said it hadn’t happened, yet. Tonight’s the turning point. This is just what we needed. We’ve played some really good soccer this year. And we played some really good soccer tonight.”
Lexington Catholic has 10 seniors on its roster, but five have been out due to injury for much of the year. The last and potentially most devastating blow came when midfield playmaker Maggie Corbett went out last month against Henry Clay with a broken bone in her leg.
But, Quigley said, “Maggie Corbett never left the team. She’s right there. She’s yelling and screaming and pushing us.”
So too, were all of LexCath’s injured veterans, said senior McKenna Hamm, a center back who was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
“Overall, the injured players have really kept our team together,” Hamm said. “Every game we go out and play for them.”
As 43rd District rivals, Lexington Catholic (17-6-1) gets a good look at Tates Creek (20-3) all year. They each have been in the Maher Rankings’ top 10 for much of that time. Despite the two earlier losses, the Knights said they knew they could play with them.
“All around they are such a good team and whenever we play them, they always bring something else to the table, so we knew that we had to adjust and man-mark the really important ones, and we held them,” Hamm said.
Lexington Catholic advances to the semi-state round of the KHSAA state tournament next week and will play the winner of Saturday’s 10th Region finals between Clark County and Bishop Brossart.
Henry Clay rolls in boys’ finals
Henry Clay’s Sota Ippongi scored the first of his three goals less than nine minutes into the game and the Blue Devils’ eased to their second consecutive 11th Region boys’ title with a 6-0 win over Great Crossing’s inaugural squad.
“He’s a special player,” Henry Clay Coach Jason Behler said of his tournament MVP. “Sometimes you get players that think they are better than a game, think the team should win easily and don’t try as hard. He respects every team. We all do. That’s part of the reason he’s so effective in these games. He’s going to play everybody like they’re an All-American.”
Playing their second night on a Sower Soccer Complex grass field in Frankfort that is a bit smaller than their home turf, Henry Clay (21-1-3) opted to put on a high press and force Great Crossing (14-3-3) to pass under duress deep in their own end.
Ippongi’s first goal came after he intercepted the ball at midfield and took it straight at the keeper. Five minutes later, Ippongi fed Chris Sanders for the second goal. Midway through the half, Tahj Jairam made it 3-0 and the rout was on.
“I think every one of our games was a statement in the regional tournament and I think we were dominant in the first halves of all of those games with the exception of the Tates Creek game, which was pretty even,” Behler said.
The statement the No. 2 Blue Devils are sending is that they’re ready to make another deep run in the state tournament. Last year, Henry Clay backed into the postseason with a sub-.500 record and then blazed into the state semifinals where they lost to eventual champion St. Xavier. St. X is No. 1 in the Maher Rankings this season.
But Behler’s team’s focus is only on their semi-state opener against Calvary Christian next week.
“You don’t get to this point without being locked in, Behler said. “We’ve never really been a team to look ahead to anything, this group especially, because last year they weren’t expected to do a whole lot so we always just look at every thing as ‘the next game.’ … They’ve approached this season with that same mentality.”