Greenwood will make its first ever appearance in the Kentucky High School Athletics Association girls’ state soccer finals where they’ll face a Highlands team that’s on its second straight turn. Meanwhile, Henry Clay and Daviess County, both past champions, will battle it out for the boys’ title Saturday evening at Bryan Station High School.
Henry Clay, ranked No. 1 in the most recent MaherRankings.com standings, takes on No. 5 Daviess County at 6 p.m.
Henry Clay is led by senior Sota Ippongi, who has scored 26 goals and dealt 10 assists in 2019 and is a two-time Lexington Player of the Year. He’s supported by a team that has put in 68 more goals and is one of the stingiest in the state defensively with the Kentucky High School Soccer Coaches Association’s goalkeeper of the year, Ethan Anderson, and defender of the year, Charlie Boone.
Daviess County features a dynamic duo in Jacob Boling and Hunter Clark, who scored 33 and 23 goals, respectively. Clark has 23 assists, including the game-winning one in Wednesday’s semifinals that fed Boling in final overtime period with only seconds remaining.
The teams have two common opponents. Henry Clay defeated Elizabethtown 6-0 on Sept. 12 and Oldham County 5-0 in Wednesday’s semifinals. Daviess County topped Elizabethtown 3-2 on Sept. 7 and Oldham County 5-3 on Sept. 21.
Daviess County won it all in 2016 in its third of five appearances under Coach Doug Sandifer. The Panthers were last in the finals in 2017. Henry Clay claimed the title in 1991 and 2010 and is making its sixth appearance in the title game. It was last here in 2015.
Greenwood advanced 3-0 over an undefeated Ashland Blazer team on a cold, windy night for Thursday’s semifinals. The Gators’ leading scorer, Auburn commit Anna Haddock, who has 54 goals and 24 assists this season, notched the first score six minutes into the match, beating the Ashland keeper with a low, skipping ball just inside the near post.
“We didn’t really know what this team was going to be like. We knew they scored a lot of goals this year, so our strategy was to come out and score one early,” Haddock said. “When we got that one, I had a lot of confidence in the game and I knew we were going to find a lot of success in front of the net. And we did.”
Haddock assisted with a through ball to Sarah Wiles, who made it 2-0 with seven minutes until halftime. Ellie Belcher, with an assist from Annabel Justice, virtually sealed the win with a goal just a few minutes into the second half.
Chloe Gamble’s blast into the top right corner midway through the first overtime sent the Bluebirds to their second straight finals with a 1-0 win over Sacred Heart, the defending champions and the team that bested them there a year ago.
Sacred Heart outshot Highlands 9-6, but it had only four shots on target to the Bluebirds’ five. Sacred Heart generated five corner kicks in the contest. Highlands had none.
No. 2 Greenwood will play No. 5 Highlands at 8 p.m. Saturday on a night that figures to be as cold, but maybe not as windy. Highlands has made four finals appearances and won the title back-to-back in 2005-06.
“It was definitely tough tonight. It’s kind of hard to get your legs going when it’s 30 degrees out here,” Haddock said. “It don’t think I’ve worn a shirt underneath my jersey all year, and tonight I could have worn two. … I’m hoping it won’t be as bad on Saturday.”