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Sloane Salisbury is held by Stephanie Passow.

The South Laurel Lady Cardinals overcame mud, injuries and a determined North Laurel team to win their fourth straight 31st District title.

“We really enjoyed this win. I think again tonight our defense kind of won it for us. I think our defense smothered out North’s offense,” South Laurel coach Todd White said.

Neither team showed much offense on a North Laurel field turned to pudding by steady rain. There was more than field conditions slowing the South Laurel offense. The Lady Cardinals were without their leading scorer and assist leader. Junior Katie White, who leads the team with 18 goals, tore her ACL against Middlesboro Monday and is out for the season. Jessica Perkins, who led the team in goals last season and assists this year, has been out since Labor Day with a knee injury. Perkins finished second in the state in goals last year with 36.

“Most of my offensive production was not on the field,” White said.

Still South Laurel’s offense produced numerous shots in a scoreless first half. None got past North Laurel keeper Neidra Lundy, the tournament’s defensive MVP. While Lundy made eight saves in the first half, North Laurel managed only a handful of shots with two needing goalkeeper Stephanie Fawbush to stop.

“They had their tempo most of the game. They are more explosive than us at the midfield. That’s something we’re going to have to try and fix for the next game,” North Laurel coach Becki Woodworth said.

The next game Woodworth pointed to is a potential regional final matchup between these rivals.

“Honestly, we are the two best teams in our region. If we don’t see each other in the region finals, then somebody dropped the ball,” Woodworth said.

The Lady Cardinals will also be looking for their fourth straight regional title to add to the trophy case next to the four district titles.

“I really feel like we are still the front runner,” White said.

The Lady Cardinals broke the scoreless tie early in the second half. With less than two minutes off the clock, Sloan Salisbury was pushed in the box and received a penalty kick. Salisbury, who was named Offensive MVP, fired the kick past Lundy’s dive.

It was only three minutes later when South Laurel added a second goal when freshman Kayla Cornett followed a deflection in front of the goal.

“I knew we had missed some opportunities and I knew we would have several more with the field conditions the way they were,” White said.

With 17:35 remaining, North Laurel cut the lead in half when Hannah Dietz scored on a penalty kick.

The Lady Jaguars were playing with urgency. White said that would sometimes prompt him to drop an extra player back on defense. This time he chose not to do that.

“I really put a lot of pressure back on my defense. I want my defense to lead us,” White said. “If they don’t score. We don’t lose.”

The South Laurel defense held to give the Lady Cardinals the title with their second win of the season over North Laurel. The Lady Cardinals won the first meeting 4-1. Woodworth called the one-point loss to South Laurel a “big step in the right direction” for her team.

“Our girls are capable of playing with them. I believe that. I believed it all year,” Woodworth said. “I hope the girls believe that now.”

Along with their MVP Salisbury, three other South Laurel players were named to the All-District team: Ginger Johnson, Kelsey Jones, and both the junior and freshman Kayla Cornett. Earning All-District honors for North Laurel were Lindsey Evans, Rachel Lewis, and Kayla Maxey, along with defensive MVP Lundy.

Mitch Howard can be reached at mhoward@sentinel-echo.com.

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