Corey Yates expects his team to play to a certain standard.
If it doesn’t happen, they hear about it.
“One of our program’s values is accountability,” Yates said. “It’s really one of the first things we preach and I think we do a good job of keeping the kids accountable, praising them when they need praise and absolutely criticizing their game and how they need to improve it when that presents itself.
“It can be difficult for players to understand that at the beginning. You have to stay consistent with holding them accountable. I think he (assistant coach Judd Yates) and I have done really well as coaches. It’s gotten to the point where the players are not taking it personally and see where they can improve their game.”
Elizabethtown (18-6-1) visits Oldham County (14-5-1) at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Boys’ Soccer State Tournament.
The Panthers are averaging five goals per game in the postseason as they won the 17th District and 5th Region tournaments.
“We don’t keep up with goals scored,” Yates said. “We keep statistics like goals against and possession percentage. Our philosophy is if you have the ball more than the opponent, the better chance you have to win and I think we can do that against most teams in the state tournament.
“Typically, we’re concerned about how we play, rather than changing the entire system to negate the other team. We want to stick with what has worked for our team going forward and make small, tactical adjustments to try to hinder the opponent’s scoring opportunities.”
Oldham County is the 8th Region champion, beating rival North Oldham, 1-0. The Colonels have won six in a row, four of those, including the last two, by shutout.
“I think we have been able to link up and control what we consider to be the dominance of the game through keeping the ball,” Yates said. “It took a little while for that to happen because we have battled so many injuries throughout the season to some key guys, and we lost one (in the region championship game) who might not be able to play. It’s the next man up mentality continuing on.
“I think that throughout the season the boys have taken to heart what we’ve been teaching them in training and I think you have seen that really come to life in the postseason.”
Panthers freshman Cole Varela leads the offense with 20 goals and six assists. Junior Andrew Ballard has 15 goals and 11 assists and senior Luis Gomez 13 goals and 12 assists.
“That was a little unexpected from a production standpoint,” Yates said of Varela. “I knew going into the season that Cole would get some varsity minutes and would have opportunities to expose what he can do as a player. It worked out because we had certain injuries and he got extra minutes and took advantage of what we allowed him to do. He’s the prototypical in the right place at the right time by playing his position well.
“He’s capitalized on so many opportunities given to him that he worked his way into the starting lineup. That goes back to accountability. We don’t care who you are or what grade you’re in. If you pose a threat and can be one of our better 11 players, you’ll start over seniors or juniors. It doesn’t matter.”
Amongst the injuries suffered this season was one to junior defender Ty Been, who has missed the season.
“Losing Ty, who is arguably our best defender at the spot that he played, posed a serious defensive weakness to overcome,” Yates said. “Bryan (Herringshaw) has been a major contributor in being able to solidify that role in his absence. Honestly, in Bryce (Bowers) moving to center-back the last three weeks we’ve noticed a big difference in the goals we’ve given up. Against our district and region opponents, it has allowed us to keep the ball more and dominate the run of play against teams we felt we were superior to.
“Sometimes it’s hard because some don’t want to play that position, per se. You have to convince them as a coach that it’s necessary — that it’s not about you, it’s about us and what we, not you, want to accomplish.”