RICHMOND – Saturday morning’s final horn sounded at Eastern Kentucky University, and the Great Crossing girls’ soccer team reacted with all the excitement as if it were a bell for the next class.
The Warhawks acted as if they’ve been here before, even though the 11th Region quarterfinal victory over Model Laboratory School, 2-0, was the first in their program’s history.
It’s a welcome sign that GC (9-1), fired up by its initial loss of the season to Western Hills in the 41st District championship, isn’t merely happy to be here.
“We've got a lot to do on Monday (in training), and that's why it is business-like,” GC coach Steve Brown said. “When you're building a program you want to go far. Just getting there is not good enough.”
A season of new standards and elevated expectations will continue at home Tuesday, when GC hosts the Lexington Cathollic-Sayre winner at 6 p.m. in the semifinals.
Model (7-5) was 44th District champion for the first time since 2009, but GC’s 3-0 win in Georgetown on Sept. 8 provided a clue that the Warhawks were a prohibitive favorite.
Madisyn Dodge’s goal 32 seconds into the match did nothing to dispel that notion. Elisabeth Keenan set it up by playing a ball to the left corner and rifling a cross that left Dodge one-on-one with Model goalkeeper McKenna Tuttle at the far post.
It played out exactly as a scenario Keenan discussed with assistant coach Baili Bailey in pre-game.
“We were warming up, and she told me, 'That's the ball I want. I want it from your left foot quick, back to the six, right in front of the keeper.' And it worked out perfectly,” Keenan said.
GC dominated possession for more than 90 percent of the first half and put away the insurance goal prior to intermission, as well.
Meren Patton’s pass from just inside midfield split two defenders to Dodge, who was tripped up, drawing a delayed call inside the 18-yard line.
Patton planted the resulting penalty kick with 7:40 remaining for the 23rd goal of her freshman season.
“They know their potential. Our attacking third, we had so many opportunities and we couldn't find the back of the net,” Brown said. “I know whoever we play next, we may not have as many opportunities to finish. We've got to take advantage.”
GC’s defense, anchored by Kamri Smith, Layne Ogle, Josie Dummer, Emree Schmidt and Brooklyn Couch, held the fort from there.
Dummer and Patton each pinged the crossbar with scoring bids that could have ripped the margin farther open.
“It almost caused us to relax,” Brown said of GC's goal after the opening kickoff. “I think it was a combination. It's a Saturday morning, and we were just coming off that loss in districts. We could give a million excuses, but I know we're gonna work to get better and be competitive against whoever we play on Tuesday.”
All three of Shelby Smith’s saves came in the final 20 minutes, each against Tuttle, who moved to midfield in a strategy that successfully awakened the Patriots’ attack.
“They know what to do. They're good players. They're smart players. For whatever reason, I think they think too much. If they will just relax, play possession ball and pull the trigger in the attacking third when they need to, and get back in the defensive third when they need to, then we'll be OK,” Brown said. “What I love about this team, I think losing the district championship reset their mind that they don't want to lose again.”
Great Crossing reached regions with only four wins in its inaugural season, falling 4-1 at Henry Clay. Thursday's 3-2 stumble against Western Hills was their first since that breakthrough a year ago.
Saturday's rebound was their eighth shutout. No team other than Western Hills has scored against GC this season.
'Not having a loss yet this season really let us see that we don't like the feeling. I think it made us push and not want to have that feeling again,” Keenan said. “(This win) makes me confident in my team knowing that we had to work as a team to get it.”