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GIRLS' PREP SOCCER: E'town looking for 8th straight region title (10/20)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

By NATHANIEL BRYAN nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com BARDSTOWN —Bardstown Bethlehem is a surprise to still be alive this far into the postseason and coach Danny Rossoll knows his Banshees will need some more magic up their sleeves tonight as the Girls' 5th Region Soccer Tournament semifinals get underway at Nelson County. Bethlehem (8-8-2), the 9th District Tournament runner-up, takes on seven-time defending champion Elizabethtown (13-7-2) at 8 tonight in the late semifinal. The 6 p.m. semifinal pits 10th District Tournament runner-up Central Hardin (11-7-3) against 9th District champion Nelson County (12-6-3). Today’s winners will meet in Wednesday’s 7 p.m. title match. “Obviously it’s going to be a big task for us. Elizabethtown has been good for several years,” Rossoll said. “We have to play as good as we can play and hope for several breaks.” Some of those breaks went Bethlehem’s way last week as the Banshees stunned host Bardstown, the top seed, in the district semifinals in a shootout, 1-0. The Banshees followed that performance two days later by taking Nelson County to double overtime. “It was a wild week and I think beating Bardstown on Monday night gave our girls a lot of confidence,” Rossoll said. “We gave them a couple of days to recoup, but I think the girls will be ready.” They’ll need to be ready against an Elizabethtown team which has won 67 consecutive games against region competition under the guidance of coach Rob Zoeller. Unlike last year’s Elizabethtown squad, which was led by Miss Soccer Jenna Goblirsch, this year’s Lady Panthers feature six players with four or more assists or goals. “I don’t think we can focus on one player,” Rossoll said. “They’re so diverse, we have to make sure everyone is marked.” Elizabethtown has never lost a region tournament game since Zoeller took over in 2001. Keeping a streak like that in tact starts with making sure his players have their attention turned solely on Bethlehem, Zoeller said. “We don’t take anybody for granted. We have a major task ahead of us,” he said. “They knocked off a team favored to win the region crown in Bardstown and took Nelson County to multiple overtimes. They’ve had some good results recently and we better expect a tough 80 minutes from them or even longer.” The Lady Panthers are a bit banged up. Freshman defender Hannah Kuhn won’t start, but should see time after bruising her kneecap in the Lady Panthers’ 10th District semifinal win against Meade County. Senior center midfielder and captain Caitlin Adams played less than 20 minutes in the district final against Central Hardin as she tended to a nagging groin injury. “Caitlin will be a game-time decision,” Zoeller said of his team’s assist leader and second-leading scorer. “We’ll let her warm up and see how she’s feeling. But with her being a senior, I know I’ll have to fight to keep her off the field.” For Nelson County, the Lady Cardinals get to try to avenge a 4-2 loss to Central Hardin in the regular season on Sept. 22 in Cecilia. “We’re a different team now and I’m sure they are too,” said Nelson County coach Bug Brown. “It’s going to come down to who wants it more and I hope my girls want it.” The Lady Cardinals will have to contend with a Lady Bruin defense which has held eight of its last 10 opponents to one goal or less. “They’re well coached and they have a lot of talent. They’re an experienced team and we’re pretty young, so I hope we have the will and the drive to rise to the occasion,” Brown said. Nelson County enters tonight unbeaten in its last seven games. Earlier in the regular season, the Lady Cardinals beat North Oldham, which was ranked 18th at the time, and Bowling Green, which was ranked 24th. “We’ve had a good season. We’ve been very blessed. And hopefully we can take it up another notch for regions,” Brown said. Central Hardin coach Hal Bender, whose team lost in its last trip to Nelson County, said the Lady Bruins have to be willing to match the Lady Cardinals’ aggressiveness. “They’re a very physical team,” he said. “They’re very physical with the ball and they did a good hob of controlling the midfield the last time we played.” And unlike Elizabethtown, Bender’s team has to contend with a team playing in the friendly confines of its home field. “We went there last year and got beat on their senior night. They bring a pretty good crowd wherever they go,” Bender said. “I’m sure they’ll have plenty in the stands since they’re at home.” Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758