By Denis House
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
It was a game that was filled with emotion along with some very physical play. But in the end, it was South Laurel claiming its seventh straight district title with a 3-0 win over Corbin.
Coming into the match, Corbin would be without its starting keeper, Sydni Roaden, who suffered a horrific injury in the win over North Laurel, as a collision with Allison Blanton late in the first half resulted in a broken jaw that required surgery. Her team wore light blue T-shirts with “Sydni” and the number “00” on their backs during warm-ups, and Roaden even attended the game for inspiration.
But South Laurel overcame all that, thanks to first half goals from Karli Parker (2) and Kristen White, taking some of the steam out of the Lady Redhounds.
“That was one of the best first halves we have played all season,” South Laurel coach Todd White said. “We played with intensity. All of my players played well.”
“Well” might have been an understatement. From the opening whistle, the Lady Cards (12-6-1) came out firing on keeper Meghann Blackburn. The first chance came in the 5th minute when Holly Smith sent a through ball that White ran onto, leaving her 1-on-1 with Blackburn. But she fired the shot straight at the keeper for an easy save.
White would make up for that in the 10th minute, when Mariah House chipped a ball over the defense to White, who this time made sure on her attempt for a 1-0 lead.
It became 2-0 when Parker fired a shot past Blackburn from about 15 yards out after the Corbin defense failed to clear it.
After that second goal play began to become chippy, with Corbin whistled for two yellows within a four minute span. Another one could have been issued in the 29th minute when Smith was tackled from behind, which resulted in her taking a hard fall to the pitch, but the official let play continue.
“It was very physical,” White said. “Once Corbin got behind they became frustrated. But my girls did not fold. They played well under pressure and answered the challenge.”
Parker made it 3-0 at the half hour mark when she took the ball at midfield and dribbled straight down the throat of the Corbin defense, weaving and swerving past defenders, then topped it off with a clinical finish. It was her 31st goal of the season.
Even though his team was up by three goals at the half, White warned them not to become complacent.
“I told them that he (Corbin coach Eric Steely) was telling his team right now that they were letting Roaden down,” White said.
But a comeback wasn’t meant to be. While both teams had chances in the second half, neither could find the back of the net. That meant the Lady Cardinal defense shutdown Corbin’s Amerah Dixon, who came into the match with 43 goals, tying her for third place in state scoring. But she was almost a non-factor in this game.
“We respected Dixon’s speed and we wanted to challenge her,” White said. “Ariel (Rudd, South’s sweeper) did a nice job not letting anything play over her head, which didn’t allow Dixon to run onto a ball. The whole defense played well and with intensity.”
Both teams advance to this week’s 13th Region tournament, to be held at South Laurel. Times and dates weren’t set as of press time. Both teams will probably meet again in the region finals. Corbin will play Middlesboro, the champ of the 50th District, while South takes on winless Bell County. Corbin beat Middlesboro 10-0 during the regular season, while South rolled over Bell County, 12-0. Between South and Corbin the two teams combined to outscore Middlesboro and Bell County, 48-0.
“I’m so pleased that we won our seventh straight district title,” White said. “I’m very proud of the girls. Now hopefully we can get back on track and win the region.” South was upset in the region finals last year by Letcher County Central.
“From the start of the season our goal has been to take care of business when we get to the postseason,” White said.
South Laurel’s Mariah House, Sarah DeCarlo, Kayla Cornett and Kristen White were named to the all-district team, while Karli Parker was named the Offensive MVP. Roaden was named the Defensive MVP. North’s Kendall Ellington and Kendra Smallwood were also named to the all-district team.