Decade of dominance: Boyle wins 10th straight district title

Published 11:57 pm Wednesday, October 12, 2016

STANFORD — The last time a school other than Boyle County won a 29th or 45th District girls soccer tournament title, the oldest of the current Rebels were only starting their grade school lives.

And after Wednesday’s 3-0 win over Danville, that streak of consecutive district titles reached an even decade.

“You might get me emotional,” Boyle coach Brian Deem said. “Ten years of it, I don’t care what you say, it’s a lot perseverance, a lot of hard work, a lot of commitment, a lot of ups and downs, and it’s special. This one’s special.”

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Over that time, the Rebels have won 61 straight district games, their last loss coming to the Admirals on August 18, 2007. Overall, they’ve averaged 18 wins a season during the decade of district titles.

If you’re looking for a definition for dynasty, it’s right there.

“I told the kids, ‘You’re going to be the class that ends the decade, you’ll be the class that says, We finished that run,’’” Deem said. “Now it goes onto to another run, but it’s special to me and validates the hard work of my staff and all the kids who played before, it validates all the hard work. It’s a sweet feeling, regardless of who it is or what your district is. Ten years is a long time.”

Wednesday’s win, which pushed the Rebels to a program-record 22nd win this season, was the closest in three years, and it was even closer than the score would indicate.

The Rebels went up 1-0 in the first half when Boyle’s Kylie Thompson charged a ball as Danville goalkeeper Grace Gaffney also gave chase. The ball got behind Gaffney and Thompson had a clear look at an open net.

“That one was very similar to one they got in the first game,” Danville coach J.D. Smith said. “We drew it up and talked about it. At halftime, we said there are a few glaring mistakes that we made, and we paid for it. That’s what good teams do, they make you pay for those mistakes.”

Despite the 1-0 lead at halftime, Deem was unhappy with his team’s execution in the first, wanting his attackers to drive the ball deeper into the box and his midfield to come up into the box for support. Instead, he said they lined up from outside and gave Gaffney a chance to adjust to their shots.

“We were using our speed to our advantage, but I wanted them to be more aggressive to take into the goal and make Grace make a decision,” Deem said.

Before the game, Smith emphasized the importance of communication with his sophomore keeper.

“One of great things Grace does is the way she communicates and organizes,” Smith said. “Communication was huge tonight, making sure our defensive responsibilities were covered, especially with a team like Boyle that brings so much offensively to the game.”

The Rebels seemed to get the message from Deem in the second half. Lindsey Wren played a nice assist from Abby Carter off her right foot and across a diving Gaffney into the left side of the net for a 2-0 lead with 29 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the game.

Just three minutes later, though, the game nearly turned for the Ads (12-6-1). After a Danville player was tackled in the box, Kelsie Steber lined up for a penalty kick against Boyle keeper Sarah Burns. Or as their respective coaches said, a player who doesn’t miss PKs went against a keeper who consistently turns them away.

Steber sent a rocket to Burns’ right and the keeper dove, punching the ball away from the goal, preserving the 2-0 lead.

“Absolutely ginormous,” Deem said. “Defensively, we weren’t on top of our game. The whole play, the way it developed, it was great hustle on their part and we didn’t communicate. It was a legit foul.

“But when we got to the PK spot, Sarah’s made quite a few saves this year. She’s got an innate ability of making good decisions. That was another one, that was a game changer.”

Emmie Harris put up the final goal of the night four minutes later off an assist from Thompson, giving the Rebels more than enough breathing room.

Even though both teams entered Wednesday with their berths in next week’s 12th Region tournament secured, Smith said there was no question where Danville’s focus was.

“Tonight was about tonight,” Smith said. “We’ve got the rest of the week to worry about next week. Tonight was about tonight. Going into the game … there was no reason for us to overlook this game at all. We wanted to give this one our best shot, and I feel like we definitely gave this one a really good effort.”

Now the focus for both teams turns to the region tournament at Southwestern. Danville hopes to make the next step in the rebirth of its program, and Boyle looks to defend its region title and keep its record-breaking season alive.

“We got a little banged up tonight, but we’ll do some therapy and get ready to see what the region is about next week,” Deem said.

Follow Jeremy Schneider @jschneideramn