Danville girls fall to Mercer County in region semifinals

Published 1:41 pm Monday, October 23, 2017

It wasn’t quite a fairytale ending.

Down 2-0 at halftime in the 12th Region semifinals, the Danville girls’ soccer team stormed back to tie the game 2-2 and take the game into extra time.
The Admirals had a majority of the chances in the final 50 minutes against Mercer County — through the second half and two five-minute overtime periods — but the third goal just wasn’t there for the Ads.

“I’m proud of the way they fought back,” Danville head coach JD Smith said. “I’m proud of the character that they showed, the resolve to get back into the game. Ending in a shootout like that, that’s unfortunate. But I’m extremely proud of my team and how they pushed to find the equalizer so late in the game.”

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It took more than 70 minutes of game action for Danville to find its first goal. Kailyn Wilcher assisted Courtney Howe on a free-kick from midfield to cut the Titans lead in half.

Just four minutes later, a free-kick from Jaylin Nash tied the game.

Of course Smith didn’t want to be in that situation, but he was proud of the way his team came together after halftime.

“We weren’t ourselves (in the first half), and we recognized that,” Smith said. “I told them that. I told them that we can’t undo it, we can only focus on what is in front of us. We can cry about what we’ve done, or we can come together and we can get ourselves back in it. It was a very positive halftime talk, we ended it with smiles, which is kind of odd to do when you’re down 2-0 in a region semifinal.

“But I think their resolve was there, and I think the second half showed that. We were where we needed to be mentally in the second half. We got back into it, it would’ve been really nice to get that third. But we didn’t, we went into a shootout and that’s the way shootouts go sometimes. Sometimes they go your way, sometimes they don’t.”

In the shootout, Danville lost 4-3.

The Admirals lose six seniors from a team that went 14-6 this season: Annabelle Graves, Courtney Howe, Katie Kirk, Maggie Milby, Taylor Rankin and Kelsie Steber.

“You’re hard-pressed to find a better senior class, anywhere,” Smith said. “I’ve been with these girls for seven, eight years. Some started with me in fifth grade. Every team should be so lucky to have a group like this. They look after all the girls on the team. They’re just a great group of kids on and off of the field.”