By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
North Laurel rallied from two goals down in the second half to tie Corbin with 17 minutes remaining. It was anyone’s game at that point.
“I knew it was going to be tough,” North Laurel coach Becki Woodworth said. “We are playing really well right now. We played really well tonight.”
Woodworth said for her team to win they had to play mistake-free. Turns out it may have taken more than that. The go-ahead goal from Corbin’s Amerah Dixon came with 6:21 to play. With North Laurel keeper Kendall Ellington denying shot after shot, Dixon went over her.
“(Dixon’s) the type of player that is capable of putting the team on her shoulders and getting the job done,” Woodworth said. “She didn’t really even get free. She just put a shot in at a horrible angle.”
Dixon had a sharp angle on the right side of the goal. She lifted the kick just over the fingertips of Ellington to a small target on the far post. It wouldn’t be an easy shot without the weight of a spot in the district finals at stake. Corbin would add a late goal, but Dixon’s goal was the difference in the 4-2 win.
“God it was a relief,” Corbin coach Eric Steely said. “Every time we play Rebecca she spend a lot of energy and a lot of manpower trying to shut Amerah down. I told Amerah just don’t get frustrated.”
Corbin briefly seemed to have control of this tense and physical first-round game in the 49th District Tournament. The first 20 minutes were scoreless with much of the credit going to Ellington.
“Kendall is a fantastic goalkeeper. I hate to see her career end. It’s fun watching her play,” Steely said. “I don’t like watching her play against us.”
The Lady Redhounds first goal came from Whitney Baker on an assist from Dixon. After a throw-in, Dixon got the ball at the top of the box. She quickly flicked to Baker cutting from the side for a 1-0 lead.
With 5:37 in the half, North Laurel’s Allison Blanton and Corbin keeper Sydni Roaden both sprinted for a ball in the box. Roaden grabbed the ball just as her and Blanton collided. Roaden would leave the game and be transported to the hospital with a broken jaw.
“Everyone was very emotional and upset. I didn’t know how they would bounce back from that ,” Steely said. “They came together and handled it very well.”
Morgan Boggs scored for Corbin in the opening minute of the second half to make it a 2-0 game.
“We kept playing. We kept fighting,” Woodworth said.
With 32:22 remaining, North Laurel cut the lead in half. The ball ricocheted around the box off several legs before Blanton buried the shot.
“Rebecca is a very good motivator. Her teams always play us hard,” Steely said. “I expect them to come out with a lot of intensity and they did. They never let up.”
Corbin continued to get shots, including one off the post that danced on the line before being snatched up by Ellington. The shots that did get past sweeper Kendra Smallwood were being swallowed by Ellington.
“Kendall played phenomenal. She’s a pressure player. You put a little pressure on her and she’s going to shine. Smallwood is the same way. They thrive on the pressure,” Woodworth said.
With 17:11 remaining, the officials ruled Amy Corum was pushed in the box by Caitin Gentry. Smallwood drilled the penalty kick past backup keeper Meghann Blackburn to tie the score 2-2.
That was how the score would stay until the improbable shot by Dixon.
“That was beautiful. There is not much you can do about that shot,” Woodworth said.
The final goal was little more than an afterthought. Although nice passing from Dixon to Boggs to Baker gave the Lady Redhounds the goal, it came with Smallwood moved out of the sweeper spot and North Laurel gambling to score.
“(Corbin) played hard and they earned their win tonight. I hate to lose, but we gave them everything we had,” Woodworth said. “I told my girls, ‘I couldn’t be more proud of the way you all played.’ They played hard and they always compete. And we played the game the way it is supposed to be played.”
It was an emotional Woodworth that had to say farewell to seniors Ellington, Smallwood, and Corum.
“We are sorely going to miss our seniors. You can’t ask for three better players, three better leaders, three better personalities on the team,” Woodworth said. “Those three are irreplaceable.”