Boyle girls win in first round of state tourney
Published 10:30 am Thursday, October 19, 2023
By Mike Marsee
Barely 48 hours after they were on top of the world, the Boyle County girls were climbing again.
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One practice and two sleeps removed from a regional championship victory and a triumphant entry to their homecoming dance, the Lady Rebels had no trouble re-energizing Monday night for their first-round game in the girls state soccer tournament.
They rose to the occasion once more, turning the page and turning away Madison Central for a 2-0 victory at Rebel Stadium.
Boyle players moved on from their thrilling win Saturday over West Jessamine in the 12th Region final and their return to their school, where they were greeted by cheers at the homecoming dance that was underway.
“I feel like we’re all just ready to play, so it wasn’t that hard to come back from the West game,” Boyle defender Hensley Arnold said.
Boyle coach Brian Deem said he wasn’t sure that would be the case with this young team.
“But they’re hungry, they want to win, so that’s playing into our hands,” Deem said. “They were able to enjoy that moment Saturday and come out and have a good practice yesterday, and they were focused tonight.”
Boyle (19-5-1) advanced to the quarterfinals and a game Thursday night at Russell, where they tried to reach the final four for the first time.
The Lady Rebels largely controlled the game, keeping the ball on Central’s end of the field for most of the night and scoring once in each half.
“We didn’t do anything special. We just played our game, and we wanted to put the pressure on them,” Deem said.
Madison Central (15-4-1) had allowed fewer goals than all but three teams in Kentucky – 13 in 19 games – but Boyle, which had scored more goals than any other team in the state – 151 in 24 games – got enough done on offense and leaned on its defense, which limited the Lady Indians’ offensive opportunities after the Lady Rebels took the lead in the first half.
“We were told that they do a lot of through balls diagonally, and we just knew that we had to cover each other and stop those,” Arnold said.
Deem said the defenders reacted quickly and confidently to the Lady Indians’ attacks.
“Our backline didn’t second-guess themselves. They committed to whatever decision they went with, whether to step to the ball and be physical or to drop and keep the ball in front of them,” he said. “We just played a physical game, and we made sure that we were winning balls in the air.”
Maggie Gnann scored from about 8 yards out to put Boyle in front in the 19th minute.
Maggie Burke gave the Lady Rebels some breathing room in the 66th minute when she outran a defender down the left side to within 6 yards of the post, then fired into the far side of the net.
Then it was left to the Lady Rebels’ defense to finish off Central (15-4-1), and defender Anna Waters said it was up to the task.
“I think we all just have a bond,” Waters said. “We know where each other’s going. We all work so hard to connect passes and get in our shape, and we’ve trained all season for moments like these.”
Goalkeeper Addie Cannon had three saves, including one on a free kick that would have tied the game just before halftime, as Boyle shut out its opponent for the eighth time in nine games and the 16th time this season.
The Lady Rebels won a first-round game for the sixth time in eight state tournament appearances, but their last trip to state was in 2015 and their last win at state was in 2011.
“As a senior, this means a lot to me,” Waters said. “I was here when we lost in the first round of districts. I’ve seen coach Deem build this program up to what it is, and I’m super excited.”
That’s exactly where Deem wants his team to be.
“It’s all about the moment, and I told them, ‘Right now you all just need to enjoy the journey,’” he said. “‘Have no fear, whatever happens happens, just make sure that you go out there and play.’”