Austin Wahle, a junior defender for Lexington Catholic, jokes before every game that senior Alana Hughes "has to get a hat trick."
Hughes came through on that big expectation Thursday, delivering three goals for LexCath in its 4-0 shutout of Madison Central in the 11th Region championship at Madison Southern.
The Knights earned their first state tournament berth since 2009. They came out gunning for it, too, putting up more than 30 shots in the victory.
As strong as the Knights were around the goal, they might have been more impressive on defense. They held the 44th District champions to only three shots and maintained a 15-0 advantage in attempts at halftime.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
Hughes said the Knights were aware of Madison Central's physical style, so they talked a lot about containing and not fouling in the back.
"I think our backline really stepped it up today," Hughes said.
Wahle said it didn't matter how physical the Indians were if the Knights moved the ball around fast and "knock it around."
"If they can't touch us, they can't take it away," Wahle said.
The Indians were in their first region championship since 2002, when they were in the 15th Region and advanced to their only state tournament. Its 14 wins this season were tied for third most in program history in a single season.
Lexington Catholic will travel to Boyle County for the first round of the state tournament on Tuesday. The Knights tied the Rebels 0-0 at home in the last game of the regular season.
"This one stands out because we haven't been here in so long," Catholic Coach Terry Quigley said. "These girls have worked so hard. The teams before them worked so hard and didn't have this kind of moment. I'm glad that they get to experience it."
Hughes finished with six goals in the tournament. She scored one in the Knights' 8-0 rout of Madison Southern on Monday and had both goals in a 2-0 win over Woodford County in the semifinals.
"We have the people in the back who are holding up the back and we've got to have people up top who are delivering," Wahle said, "and (Hughes) does a good job of that."
Hughes said she was nervous entering her final season at Lexington Catholic because she felt the Knights lost a great deal to graduation. She lauded the play of Olivia Williams, Catholic's sophomore goalkeeper who "stepped it up this season" after not playing much on varsity.
"It's exciting," Hughes said. "We all were like 'we're going to state this year.' We knew it."
Lexington Catholic 4, Madison Central 0
11th Region championship at Madison Southern
G—LC: Hughes 3 (19', 34', 61'), Tranter (71').
GK—LC: Williams. MC: Schneid.
Records: Lexington Catholic 21-2-2, Madison Central 14-6-1.