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GIRLS' PREP SOCCER: Elizabethtown's Black shines on the pitch -- and the links (09/23)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

Rebecca Black has played soccer and golf for so long that when she got the chance to finally play high school varsity sports last year as an Elizabethtown freshman, she refused to just focus on one.

“I don’t know if I would have been able to make the choice,” she said Sunday night in an interview at The News-Enterprise office after going to church, playing 18 holes golf and going to a youth group meeting earlier in the day.

The decision, and Black’s dedication, paid off as she helped lead the Lady Panthers’ golf team to a region title shortly before helping Elizabethtown’s girls’ soccer team win the region tournament and eventually earn the program’s first state tournament final four appearance.

Now the 15-year-old sophomore could be just weeks away from pulling off the rare and demanding feat all over again.

Rebecca said it is hard describe how she divides her time.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I get a lot of help from my parents (father Pat and mother Kim) and I just try to do everything equally.”

The Lady Panthers have a soccer game at home tonight against John Hardin, but after the Lady Panthers played Saturday, their coach (Pat) gave them the day off.

Even if her dad had scheduled soccer practice Sunday, Rebecca said she would have ended up on the golf course, someway, somehow.

“Um, no,” Rebecca said of taking a break from the links. “I would have played golf earlier than church or had gone to church, whichever one came first and then gone to soccer.”

Longtime Central Hardin girls’ golf coach Chris Adams has been through the golf-soccer combination before when Meredith Cross helped both of the Lady Bruins’ soccer and golf teams reach the state tournament in the same season a few years ago.

As both sports are so different, Adams appreciates what Cross did for his school and what Rebecca does for hers.

“With golf and soccer, you’re talking about a team sport and an individual sport and it’s a completely different skill set. You have to put in the time,” Adams said. “I know with Meredith in the summer, she would do morning soccer conditioning, walk 18 holes and then do evening soccer practice. So it takes a special kind of dedication to do both and excel at it.”

Elizabethtown girls’ golf coach Kim Hartlage calls Rebecca a triple threat as the youngster is also a standout in the classroom.

“She’s a straight-A student – for now,” Pat said with a laugh. “You never know.”

“I’m holding it off till calculus,” Rebecca replied.

Hartlage said Rebecca is a shining example of a well-rounded student athlete.

“To pull off three things at once, which I call being a wonderful student and being a strong golfer and a soccer player at the same time, it’s very remarkable and it’s very unique,” Hartlage said. “I’m very proud of her. But I’ve also known her since she was an infant, so I may be partial to her.”

Rebecca pulled off a couple of remarkable feats last season.

On Aug. 18, 2012, Rebecca played against Alexandria Bishop Brossart in a soccer game in the morning in Oldham County. An uncle then drove her to Fort Knox so she could play in the Lady Bruin Invitational at Lindsey Golf Course. After her round was over, a different uncle drove Rebecca back to Oldham County so she could play in a soccer game that night against Scott County.

Less than two months later, Rebecca sprained an ankle in a soccer game and was questionable for the 3rd Region Golf Tournament at Lindsey. Rebecca limped through an 84 – finishing in a tie for fourth – helping the Lady Panthers beat Central Hardin for the team title, 339-385.

“Her foot was a purple as our shirts, but she walked 18 holes carrying her own bag,” Hartlage recalled. “It was impressive.”

Rebecca’s average is 78 this year, down from 84 last year. She was also the Girls’ Hardin County Cup runner-up to Hartlage’s sophomore daughter, Lauren.

In order for Rebecca to get in all of her Hardin County Cup matches, Adams had to change some golf-course dates which conflicted with Rebecca having a soccer game. When Cross was still playing, the Hardin County Cup schedule would change if Central Hardin had a girls’ soccer game.

“Golf is not about putting butts in the seats; it’s about the kids and you want to do right by the kids,” Adams said. “When a kid is trying to put in that type of time, you want to accommodate them.”

Through the Lady Panthers’ first 13 soccer games this season, Rebecca was second on the team in goals (seven) and led the squad in assists (13).

“She works really hard and we instill that in her,” Pat said of his daughter. “She doesn’t have any choice but to give it all she’s got from the get-go.”

Pat said his wife deserves a lot of credit for keeping the family straight. In addition to Pat coaching soccer and Rebecca playing both sports, they have to keep up with Rebecca’s older brother Ian, a former Panther golf standout who is shining in his freshman season with Centre College.

“We look at our calendar at least three or four times a week and my wife has that calendar out with how we’ve got to do things,” Pat explained.

As long as things keep going as well as they are Rebecca has no plans to drop one.

She even knows what she’s going to do if she starts to struggle in one.

“I would just stay out there longer,” she said. “I would just work harder because I don’t know if I could just switch to one or drop one.”

Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at 270-505-1758 or nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com.