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Emily Richardson and the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers were on a collision course to yet another Girls’ 17th District Soccer Tournament championship.
The senior scored the game’s only goal midway through the second half when she knocked the ball in during a collision in the box with Central Hardin goalkeeper Savannah Haberman to lift the top-seeded Lady Panthers past the second-seeded Central Hardin Lady Bruins on Thursday night in the tournament final at Troy Wade Field in Radcliff.
Senior Maggie Sherrard crossed the ball from the right side. Both Haberman and Richardson broke on it and got to it in a photo finish. The play left Richardson on the ground and Haberman holding her knee.
“I don’t even really remember who passed it or what happened,” said Richardson, who had two goals and three assists in the Lady Panthers’ 8-0 semifinal win Wednesday over fourth-seeded North Hardin. “I knew I had to get there and I kind of spun into it.”
The district title is Elizabethtown’s 10th in 11 years with the lone blemish being a 2010 semifinal loss to John Hardin. Elizabethtown and Central Hardin have combined for 13 of the last 14 district titles and the last 12 5th Region Tournament titles.
“No, they never get old,” Richardson said. “Each one feels pretty good and I think we’ve deserved each and every one.”
Richardson, who upped her tally to 18 goals and six assists in 19 games, had two other golden opportunities denied by Haberman, who stopped 4-of-5 shots on goal. But veteran Central Hardin coach Hal Bender said the Lady Bruins should have known where Richardson was on her goal.
“If you lose track of her for even a second, she’s in,” said Bender, whose team was in the title game for the ninth straight year. “If you don’t have good technique when you close her down, she’s one touch and by you.”
Interim Elizabethtown coach Pat Black praised his midfielders, notably junior All-Tournament Team selection Jesse Giles, for improving their play in the second half. Central Hardin outshot Elizabethtown by one in the first half before the Lady Panthers responded by firing off six shots to the Lady Bruins’ three in the second half.
“We won the game in the second half with our midfield play after they stepped it up,” Black said. “I think the first half was pretty 50/50, but I thought we had a majority of the chances in the second half. I kind of growled at them at halftime and gave them a talking to about not letting them be open to receive the ball in the midfield.”
Bender, whose team was shut out for the second time in five games and for the fifth time overall this season, said Elizabethtown would have played better on a flatter surface because of its speed and finesse.
He said his team, meanwhile, needed to look inward when it came to offense.
“Ours was a conscious effort and we took too many touches,” said Bender, whose team was shut out by Elizabethtown in the regular season by 1-0 as well. “We held on to the ball too long in the attacking third. No one wanted to pull the trigger.”
Elizabethtown recorded its 10th shutout in 14 games since Black assumed control Aug. 29.
“A lot of that again goes back to our midfield play,” he said. “The defense played well tonight and has played well this season, but it can only do so much.”
Central Hardin senior defender Casey Gandy suffered a serious right leg injury in the second half and did not return after having her knee bandaged.
“Casey’s been fantastic for us this year and I’m hurting inside right now for her,” Bender said. “I didn’t see the tackle since it was on the far side, but Casey’s a tough girl. So when she stays down, she’s hurt.”
Both teams advance to next week’s region tournament at Central Hardin. The tournament draw is at 5:30 p.m. today at Central Hardin. The Lady Bruins (9-7-3) are locked into one of Monday’s two quarterfinals, while Elizabethtown (12-5-2) could draw into the other quarterfinal or one of Wednesday’s two semifinals.
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or email@example.com.
GIRLS’ 17TH DISTRICT SOCCER TOURNAMENT ALL-TOURNAMENT TEAM
Elizabethtown: Jesse Giles, Lexy Hazle, Emily Richardson and Madison Smith.
Central Hardin: Haley Ennis, Savannah Haberman and Rachel Mobley.
John Hardin: Erika Ralston and Shiann Washington.
North Hardin: Lexi Lopez and Ariana Martinez.
FortKnox: Bekka Stenman.