Boyle girls fall to Bethlehem in first trip to state semifinals

Published 11:35 am Monday, October 30, 2023


Contributing Writer

LEXINGTON – The Boyle County girls looked both ways as they left the stadium.

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Their historic season ended Thursday with their first appearance in the semifinals of the girls state soccer tournament, leaving the Lady Rebels to reflect both on how far they have come and where they might be going.

Even as they dealt with the disappointment that followed their defeat, they were able to appreciate what they had achieved.

“I think it’s really special for this team, and I’m really proud of us,” Boyle senior Maggie Gnann said.

Boyle’s first trip to the final four was not its finest hour. The Lady Rebels scored more goals than any team in the state this season, but they managed only four shots on goal and couldn’t find the net in a 3-0 loss to Bethlehem at Ishmael Stadium.

But they said it’s possible that a team that loses only four seniors might find its way back to the statewide stage in coming seasons.

“The future’s bright here at Boyle County,” Boyle coach Brian Deem said. “I think you’re going to see our name around for the next five or six years easily.”

Boyle (20-6-1) hadn’t made it past the quarterfinals in seven state tournament appearances before this season, when it defeated Madison Central and Russell in the first two rounds to become only the third local team – along with the 2008 Boyle boys and the 2009 Danville boys – to reach the final four.

“I’m proud as heck of my girls,” Deem said. “I like this team. We just fell short today.”

Still, Deem said the Lady Rebels weren’t their usual selves against Bethlehem (22-4-1), which went on to win the state championship Saturday.

“We were able to get behind them early, but we just had a little loss of focus. We rushed ourselves in the midfield, we tried to force the issue and then we got on our heels on the back line,” Deem said. “You play great teams like Bethlehem and that’s going to happen.”

The result was a 2-0 deficit after a first half in which Boyle got only one shot.

“With our youth, that kind of gave us an ‘uh-oh’ and we realized that we were in jeopardy and didn’t respond as well as I thought we would,” Deem said.

Bethlehem was turned away twice in the fifth minute by Boyle goalkeeper Addie Cannon, who saved a shot and a rebound in quick succession for the first and second of her five saves.

The Banshees scored in the 23rd minute when Boyle defenders lost track of Ashlyn Miles on a corner kick and she punched the ball into the net, and again in the 31st minute when Baily Roby put in a rebound.

Meanwhile, their defenders were ready to respond to the forwards Boyle typically sends from each side of the field.

“They were really fast at countering and exposing our width,” Gnann said.

Boyle defender Payton Bugg, who made the all-tournament team along with Gnann, said they also beat the Lady Rebels in the air.

“They were really aggressive out of the air, and I think that’s what put a damper on our team,” Bugg said.

Bethlehem’s Tessa Miles effectively put the game out of reach in the 62nd minute with a free kick from 42 yards into the top of the goal.

Students, parents and other supporters gave the team a sendoff before Boyle left for Lexington, and many more were on hand for the game, and Deem said the players were thrilled by the support the team received from the school and the community.

It was the final game for seniors such as Bugg who helped the program achieve this milestone, but she said there are more good days ahead for her younger teammates.

“I wish them the best of luck and I hope they carry on this legacy,” Bugg said. “They’re not done yet.”

Deem said the defeat could be an important steppingstone for the Lady Rebels, citing something former Boyle football coach Chuck Smith once told him.

“(He said) sometimes you’ve got to get there and lose it before you learn how to win it, so hopefully we can take a lesson from that.”

Members of the Boyle County girls soccer team are cheered by parents and other supporters during a sendoff Thursday as they left for their girls state soccer tournament semifinal in Lexington. It was the Lady Rebels’ first appearance in the final four. Photo by Mike Marsee