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LEXINGTON— As well as Elizabethtown has played down the stretch, the Lady Panthers finally ran into a team Wednesday night which was playing better.
Covington Notre Dame reserve sophomore midfielder Mandy Arnzen continued her postseason offensive barrage by scoring on a header in the final 4 minutes to lift the top-ranked Pandas over the 10th-ranked Lady Panthers, 1-0 in the opening semifinal of the KHSAA Girls’ Soccer State Tournament at Paul Dunbar High School’s Jon R. Akers Stadium.
“I think we had a great season and I’m really proud of our team for making history for E’town, having never been able to get this far,” said Elizabethtown senior forward Lexy Hazle, who led the team in points (51), goals (28) and assists (23). “We can’t look down at this. We weren’t supposed to win. All the odds were against us and I think we gave them a good match. I don’t think they expected us to come out as hard as we did.”
Elizabethtown (17-6-2) was the first area or 5th Region girls’ program to advance past the state quarterfinals.
“That part was awesome,” said Elizabethtown junior center midfielder Jesse Giles. “No one, at least no girls, at our school have ever done it.”
The reigning state champion, Notre Dame (25-2-1) featured four future NCAA Division-I athletes. Senior goalkeeper Olivia Voskuhl, who saved Elizabethtown’s only shot on goal with 25:56 left in the match when she stopped Hazle’s hard volley, has committed to play basketball for Cleveland State.
Xavier soccer commitment Ellie Eckerle, a senior striker, who leads the Pandas in points (26) and goals (18), was limited to just three shots. Two went wide and the other was deflected by Elizabethtown’s back line, which kept all eight postseason foes from scoring multiple goals.
The Lady Panthers were also able to contain Western Kentucky commitment Alex Lonneman (10 assists, one goal) and Xavier commitment Maddie Tierney (six, four).
But they weren’t able to stop the red-hot Arnzen, who has scored seven of her team’s 26 postseason goals.
Elizabethtown senior goalkeeper Madison Smith saved the Pandas’ previous eight shots on goal before Arnzen found her way to the 18-yard box. Senior midfielder Katherine Koplyay stepped with her left foot and played the ball behind it with her right foot to create space in the left side of the box. She then chipped the ball across the box to Arnzen, who jumped and headed the ball high inside the far (left) post.
“It’s a bummer,” said Elizabethtown senior wing Emily Richardson, who earned All-Tournament Team honors along with Hazle. “We come this far and then they get … it was a beautiful goal. We can’t take that credit away from them. It was a great goal and they deserved that goal.”
Elizabethtown, Erlanger St. Henry and Louisville Sacred Heart were the only Kentucky teams to keep Notre Dame from scoring multiple goals.
“We held them to one goal and played them even for 77 minutes,” said Elizabethtown senior center defender Abby Patterson, who was considered questionable for the game earlier in the week after injuring her right ankle Saturday night in a 1-0 quarterfinal win over Louisville Assumption. “You can’t be upset at that.”
Notre Dame will take a 41-game unbeaten streak into Saturday night’s final against second-ranked Lexington Tates Creek, which rolled to a 5-1 win over Bowling Green in Wednesday’s late semifinal.
With their 20th of the season, the Pandas matched the girls’ single-season state record for shutouts. The 2005 and ’06 Fort Thomas Highlands teams also accomplished the feat.
“They’re all-around good. They’re fast, they’re skillful and they know what to do,” Giles said of the Pandas’ starting defensive foursome of Lonneman, senior Jamie Bramlage and juniors Emma Schneider and Lily Weber.
The Pandas moved into third place on the KHSAA records list for single-season wins and into ninth place for consecutive victories (17). In the past two seasons, Notre Dame has outscored its in-state competition 195-16.
Notre Dame outshot Elizabethtown 20-1, including 8-0 in the first half.
“I think we could have at least taken them to PKs,” Patterson said. “I know we didn’t have that many offensive opportunities. We couldn’t really get control of the midfield, but we’re never satisfied with losing. If we’re going out, at least we’re going out in the final four to a really good team.”
Elizabethtown graduates nine senior starters in Hazle, midfielders Anne-Elizabeth Mason and midfielder Hope Palaly, Abby Patterson, defenders Jordan Patterson and Sarah Puckett, Richardson, defender Maggie Sherrard and Smith.
The other senior, who watched from the bench, is injured center midfielder Madison Conway.
“I’ve been so proud of this season because they’ve been amazing,” said Conway, whose team had to deal with lengthy injuries to herself (ACL), Giles (concussion) and freshman reserve midfielder Rebecca Black (ankle) and a mid-season coaching change when veteran Jerry Crabtree stepped down and Pat Black took over as interim coach. “They’ve overcome a lot. There were a lot of changes and a lot of things thrown in their faces that we really didn’t need, so to get this far showed how resilient we are.”
Nathaniel Bryancan be reached at (270) 505-1758 or firstname.lastname@example.org