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Playing in one of her coldest games of her senior season, Lexy Hazle didn’t take long to warm up Wednesday evening for the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers.
A Miss Soccer candidate, Hazle was involved in all four of her team’s goals in the first half as the top-seeded Lady Panthers cruised by the fourth-seeded North Hardin Lady Trojans, 8-0 in the Girls’ 17th District Soccer Tournament’s early semifinal at Troy Wade Field in Radcliff.
“It was really warm early in the game,” Hazle said while shivering. “But you don’t realize just how cold it is until you come out of the game.”
If there was any rust from playing for only the second time in 12 days, Hazle didn’t seem like she was suffering from being on the shelf. With 20:04 left in the match, she had already tallied four goals and one de facto assist after her right-side corner kick with 13:34 left in the first half was finally finished off by junior midfielder Jesse Giles. The goal, Giles’ first of the season, gave Elizabethtown a 3-0 advantage.
“I don’t think we were rusty,” said Elizabethtown senior Emily Richardson, who had two goals and three assists. “We knew we had to keep a good pace in practice and we scrimmaged the JV several times. We knew that if we ever had a game again that we would be ready.”
Richardson or Hazle were involved in every goal. Sophomore Dani Wilson had the assist on Hazle’s second goal, which made it 4-0 with 8:41 to play before the break.
“We came out ready and we were prepared,” Hazle said. “We knew this could easily be our last game, so we put everything we’ve learned last year and this year to use.”
Junior striker Brooke Johnson made it 7-0 in the final 15 minutes with her fourth goal off the bench this season.
Richardson has 17 goals and six assists in 18 games, while Hazle has 20 goals and 15 assists.
“Lexy’s always been up there with the top players (in the state),” Richardson said. “We look to her and we all know that we can count on each other.”
North Hardin has lost eight straight and 19-of-20 to the Lady Panthers. It was also the Lady Trojans’ fifth straight postseason loss to Elizabethtown since a shootout win in the 2000 district semifinals at Meade County, which also marked North Hardin’s last region tournament berth.
Senior goalkeeper Ariana Martinez and junior midfielder Lexi Lopez were selected to the All-Tournament Team for North Hardin. Lopez was involved in all of her team’s goals in the Lady Trojans’ 4-0 quarterfinal win Monday over fifth-seeded Fort Knox, while Martinez had saved 18-of-26 shots on goal by Elizabethtown.
North Hardin (9-8-1) finished unbeaten (9-0-1) this year when scoring multiple goals. But the Lady Trojans were outscored 54-1 and were shut out seven times in their losses.
“My team played fantastic tonight,” said Hayley Yourous, who earned her 50th win as the Lady Trojans’ coach during the regular season. “That was the best game they’ve played this year. By far.”
Elizabethtown (11-5-2) meets second-seeded Central Hardin (9-6-3) in tonight’s final at 8 after the Lady Bruins dispatched of the third-seeded John Hardin Lady Bulldogs in Wednesday’s late semifinal, 2-0. Elizabethtown, which is trying for its 10th district title in 11 years, earned a 1-0 win in the regular season over Central Hardin on a goal by Wilson.
Regardless of what happens tonight, the Lady Panthers are in next week’s region tournament at Central Hardin, where they’ll try to earn their first state tournament berth in three years. Elizabethtown lost to John Hardin in the 2010 district semifinals and lost to Central Hardin in last year’s region final.
“We’re just taking it one game at a time, but we’re pretty confident with the way we’ve been playing,” said Richardson, whose team has had to overcome the resignation of coach Jerry Crabtree and a season-ending ACL tear to senior center midfielder Madison Conway – who was the Lady Panthers’ points leader at the time of her injury. “Everything just happened all at once and we got pretty flustered there for a while. But we’ve toned it down since then and we’re ready for district and region.”
Elizabethtown interim coach Pat Black, who coached the Lady Panthers against Central Hardin in the regular season, can win his first district title with an Elizabethtown girls’ team after winning several with the Elizabethtown boys before stepping down in 2001.
“We’ve set several goals and winning a district title is one of them,” said Black, whose team is 8-3-2 since he took over. “We have to come out full blazing tomorrow. We’re going to have a tough game, but we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or at email@example.com