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GIRLS' PREP SOCCER: Gabhart, Elizabethtown top John Hardin, 2-0 (9/7)

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By Nathaniel Bryan

By NATHANIEL BRYAN

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nbryan@thenewsenterprise.com

ELIZABETHTOWN — A usually confident type of gal, Kaylee Gabhart found herself full of self doubt all of the sudden Saturday morning.

An Elizabethtown High School senior, Gabhart is a veteran defender for the seventh-ranked Lady Panthers. But she found herself thrust into a new position, defensive central midfielder, by longtime Lady Panthers coach Rob Zoeller against visiting 10th District rival John Hardin.

Gabhart made the switch prove worthwhile, assisting on the game-winning goal and scoring the insurance goal as Elizabethtown topped the Lady Bulldogs, 2-0 at Doug Smith Memorial Stadium.

“I was kind of scared it would turn into a disaster, but it worked out OK,” Gabhart said.

Indeed, as the win was Elizabethtown’s 62nd consecutive against 5th Region competition in Zoeller’s seven-year tenure.

More importantly, the victory allowed the Lady Panthers (5-2-1 overall, 3-0 in the six-team district) to take over sole possession of first place in the district standings with its final two mandated district contests coming this week on Monday night at Meade County (3-3, 0-1) and Wednesday night at 32nd-ranked North Hardin (5-1, 2-0).

Gabhart led the charge to make both of those accomplishments happen.

“For Kaylee, it’s all about the results. She wants to do well for the team’s sake. There’s a lot of pressure on her being a senior captain and she puts even more pressure on herself,” said Zoeller, whose team is unbeaten in its last four starts. “But sometimes, throwing her into an uncomfortable situation will throw a monkey wrench into things.”

Fortunately for Elizabethtown’s defense, the Lady Panthers’ new back line didn’t need a wrench to fix things – junior stopper Ashley Valentine ensured that much.

Valentine notched the game winner with 31:42 left in the first half. Gabhart took the corner kick – the second of 10 for the Lady Panthers compared to four for John Hardin – from the left side and put the ball into the Lady Bulldogs’ 18-yard box. Elizabethtown freshman striker Tara Gilpin was able to get a foot on the ball, but the ball squirted over to Valentine, whose left-footed shot found the left side of the net.

“I get to go up (on offense) on corner kicks,” Valentine said with a smile. “And there was a rebound that I just put in the goal.”

With the way Elizabethtown’s defense was holding John Hardin (2-2, 0-2) in check, the Lady Panthers didn’t need an insurance goal.

Gabhart gave the Lady Panthers one anyway with 13:20 remaining in the match after taking a pass from senior attacking central midfielder Caitlin Adams, taking a few dribbles and putting her 22-yard shot over the outstretched hands of John Hardin sophomore goalkeeper Jerrica Scovel.

“I just saw a big open goal after I got the ball,” said Gabhart, who has three assists and two goals in her last seven games. “I was like, ‘Well, I’m just going to shoot this.’”

Elizabethtown put five of its 15 shots on frame and had two other scoring opportunities negated on offside penalties, but first-year John Hardin coach Brittany Carter, a former Lady Bulldog goalkeeper, was pleased with how Scovel (three saves) and the rest of her youthful squad stayed in the game.

“They played hard. I’m very proud of them. To come out here and play a team like E’town at home and lose only 2-0, I’ll take it,” Carter said. “Our defense is strong. It really is. They all work well together back there and I have about six girls who can all go in.

“Jerrica’s a tremendous goalkeeper,” Carter added. “She can keep you in any game.”

At this point of the season, John Hardin’s offense is behind its defense. The Lady Bulldogs managed just five shots and only one on frame – a long shot with 18:10 remaining in the match that was easily caught by hopping Elizabethtown senior goalie Terra Lucas – while being shut out for the second time in four days and being held to a goal or less for the third consecutive game.

“Offense is something we definitely continue to work on. We had chances, but we didn’t put anything in the net,” Carter said. “But it will come. This was only our fourth game.”

While moving Gabhart seemed to work, Zoeller said he’s not done tinkering with his lineup and warned his team to not get caught up in its recent success.

“We’re still figuring out where all the pieces to the puzzle go. And when we do, you’ll know it because the picture will be clear,” he said. “But we’re still a work in progress. We still have seven top-10 teams on our schedule left. But first, we’ve got to go to Meade County on Monday night.”

Elizabethtown won the junior varsity game, 2-0.

UP NEXT: Elizabethtown plays at district rival Meade County at 7 p.m. Monday. John Hardin hosts Warren Central at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.

Nathaniel Bryan can be reached at 505-1758