For most of their Sept. 26 game against Owen County, the Henry County Lady Cats soccer team was leading.
But with eight minutes left in regulation, Owen’s Ashley Byers tied the game. She went on to drill the double-overtime, game-winning goal, leaving the Lady Cats to wonder how the game slipped from their grasp.
It was perhaps the best performance of the season for Henry County for the first 72 minutes of the game, but tired legs slowed a defense that had been stout throughout the game. Both of Byers goals were breakaways as she streaked past the defense and got into one-on-one situations with goalie Sophie Hughes who had another good match between the posts for Henry County.
The game opened with neither team being able to get the upper hand. But 15 minutes into the game, Rachel Vegh struck from 15 yards out in traffic to give the Lady Cats the lead.
Henry County then gained some confidence going forward and had a lot of possession but couldn’t quite get the second goal as Vegh continued to threaten.
The best chance came for Vegh from 25 yards out on the right when a good shot hit the intersection of the post and crossbar and bounced away. Minutes later, she had another chance from close range on the right but the Owen County keeper stopped the shot.
Owen County struggled to get into the game and had only one or two decent opportunities in the first half. The best opportunity for the Lady Rebels came late in the half from a corner kick. Sophie Hughes made a quick reaction save on a shot from close range that kept the Cats ahead going into the locker room.
Savannah Adams who was filling in at sweeper for Jessica Holcomb who had left the game very early with an ankle injury, adjusted admirably to her new role and helped keep the pressure off Hughes for most of the first half.
The second half opened with a more energetic Lady Rebel team coming close twice. Hughes made a good save on the first shot that came in the 10th minute and then again came up with the big stop about five minutes later.
Vegh struck again in the 24th minute when she received a nice pass from Micah Lineman near midfield and then outraced the Owen defenders for a one-on-one confrontation with the goalie. Vegh slipped the ball past the keeper from 15 yards to put the Lady Cats up 2-0.
But Owen County woke up after the second goal. They answered almost immediately when they raced downfield and got a goal from Morgan Walker at the 22-minute mark to pull the margin back to 1 goal.
On Owen’s next possession they threatened again as Hughes came out for a ball that Owen slipped by her, but Adams was there to snuff out the threat and kicked the ball harmlessly over the goal line for a corner kick.
Henry County got close again when Lineman had a shot from close range but she did get all of the ball and it ended up in the keeper’s hands. Owen then got a good clearance from the goalie and found Byers in the middle of the field. She raced by the tiring Henry County defense and hit the shot that tied the game.
The winning goal was eerily similar to the tying goal.
In the second overtime, Vegh made a nice cross into the box. Lineman tried to head the ball but could barely get a touch on it and it slipped away. An Owen defender recovered the ball and passed it quickly up field where it was passed to Byers, who dribbled past the defense and found herself one-on-one with Hughes again. She hit a well-struck ball that got past Hughes and went into the back of the net for the game-winner.
Coach Brandi Stivers was disappointed that her team let the win slip away but saw the game as a positive in the grand scheme of things. “I think this game showed our girls that they have the ability to hang with the other teams and beat them,” she said. “We just had a breakdown during the game with one side of our team weakening. The Owen players were able to identify that weakness and capitalize on it.”
She was especially pleased that several players who had to make adjustments due to injuries and illness were able to do so.
“I think Rachel Vegh did a good job for us and showed that she is definitely a threat to the competition,” she said. “I also think McKayla Cline helped step up on the offensive end. She helped create plays to keep the offense moving. Savannah Adams really made a large impact on the game as she had to move to a position she does not normally play and take command of the defense. She did a wonderful job and was also playing with an ankle injury. Micah Lineman also did a wonderful job in the offense. She normally plays midfield, but we mixed things up in this game and it worked greatly to our advantage.”
According to Stivers, injuries to Jessica Holcomb and Maddie Rucker played a key role in Owen’s comeback. The team was also without the services of Teressa Deweese who missed the game because of a car accident. “I think injuries had a large impact as we had to shuffle the players around to try and keep the game going. It also hurt us in that we were down to one sub so almost the whole team was tired and you had girls playing a majority of the game that don’t normally see a lot of playing time.”
HCHS 0, Shelby County 7
The Cats traveled to Shelby County on Sept. 24 and lost to a talented Shelby County squad 7-0.
Stivers said the team started out playing Shelby tough and held their own throughout the game. She said, “Shelby County’s experience showed and they were able to continuously get goals throughout the game. Shelby County is known to have tough teams and experienced players.
I think our defense did well- we were able to shut down one of Shelby’s most explosive players throughout the game, however, Shelby is a well-rounded team and while we were able to stifle the play of one of their biggest threats, there were others that were able to score effectively.”
Stivers praised the play of newcomer McKayla Cline. “I have to say McKayla Cline did a good job for us in helping out with the defense,” she said. “Toward the beginning of the game one of my most experienced players, Jessica Holcomb, had to go out of the game with an ankle injury and McKayla did a good job of helping the defense. Justice Kirk also really stepped up her game and helped out by moving to a different position on the field and directing the defense.”
HCHS 0, Grant County 2
The Lady Cats traveled to Grant County on Saturday and lost a close contest 2-0.
“When the game began I noticed that our girls were a little flat and slow to respond, however as the minutes ticked by they were able to pick it up and take off,” Stivers said. “Again, it was difficult as we had to adjust our lineup-some players arrived slightly late due to other engagements. It was a pretty even match between the two teams. We were able to take some shots on goal. However we were not able to quite get them into the net.”
Stivers praised the play of her goalkeeper. “ Sophie Hughes did an excellent job for us in goal,” she said. “She did a great job of determining when to come out of the goal and challenge for the ball and made several great saves. Jessica Holcomb and Justice Kirk also did a wonderful job back in defense in helping shut down Grant County’s offense.”
Stivers thinks the team is rounding into form as district play looms on the horizon. “I do believe that we are very close to getting another win,” she said. “Our girls are getting to know each other’s style of play better. I think if we can get our lineup to stabilize somewhat, we would be winning a lot more.”