MAYFIELD — Twenty-one years. That’s how long it’s been since the Calloway County Lady Lakers’ soccer team advanced to the district championship game and earned the automatic spot in the regional tournament. The players on the current team weren’t even born yet the last time the Lady Lakers were in this position.
With five minutes left and the score tied, Elle Carson dribbled into the right corner. The all-time leading assister in Calloway County history found the all-time leading goal scorer, Zoe Stom, on the other end of the pass. It was a calm delivery and a calm calculated shot that gave the Lady Lakers the lead 4-3 and eventually the win.
“Elle did what we’ve stressed all season, which is if you’ve got the ball on the side, get the ball to the end line and then cross it back across the green in the box and we should have somebody sitting there waiting to get it,” head coach Jeremy Stom said. “She got to the end line and she played a perfect ball back across. The defense was all shifting back and when they shifted back they left Zoe open and she took a touch and was able to finish. The ball was a slow-played pass. I didn’t think it was ever going to get to Zoe, but sure enough, it did.”
Earlier this season coach Stom said the team had two major goals they wanted to accomplish. The first was to beat Marshall and end the long drought against them. The second was to reach the regional tournament. It took all 80 minutes to check that goal off of the list. It took a tremendous effort against one of the best teams in the region, Graves County, for the Lady Lakers to earn the win last night and they did it by being tough, gritty, and resilient. Now they get to do what hasn’t been done in their lifetime, play in the district championship.
“It’s just been a long dry period,” Stom said. “The girls work hard in practice. What we do in practice they try to bring out to the field and it’s just good to see them advance like this.”
Headed into the game the Lady Lakers knew they were in for a challenge. After two games this year against Graves, the Lady Lakers were 0-2 but they were right there with them.
The opening score was off a corner kick, something the Lady Lakers seemed to have perfected this year, off the foot of Bailey Provine, and then the head of Carson.
“We scored a lot on corners this year, so we feel very confident that if we get corners we are a very dangerous team,” Stom said. “So if we can get a corner we are going to try to get a corner.”
That gave the Lady Lakers a brief lead 1-0, but it didn’t last long. In the 25th minute, the Lady Eagles equalized it on a great cross and finish. They weren’t done either. Seven minutes later the Lady Eagles were back on the scoreboard and took a 2-1 lead to halftime.
Calloway came out of the halftime break and they were focused. In less than two minutes, they earned a free-kick from just outside the box. Provine delivered a great ball and Zoe popped it towards the frame. The ball settled inside the six-yard box for what seemed like an eternity with multiple girls kicking at it. Then, all of a sudden, the ball shot into the net and Anna Hill raised her hands in celebration. The score was tied 2-2.
Fourteen minutes later the game took a drastic turn in favor of Calloway County. The ball was played long ahead for Zoe and she was off and running with just the goalie to beat.
“The keeper came out of the box and Zoe took a touch to go around her and successfully got the ball around the keeper,” Stom said. “Then, the keeper just wiped her out...It was a straight red (card) because it was a goal-scoring opportunity.”
The card put Graves down to 10 players but momentarily kept the game tied. Carson didn’t let it stay that way for long, as she calmly stepped to the free-kick awarded from the penalty 20-yards out and buried the shot.
With a one-man advantage and a one-goal lead the game looked to be well in hand for Calloway, but once again the game took a turn. Graves pressed the attack, despite being down a player, and sent in a beauty of a cross that was finished. Just like that the game was tied 3-3.
“They kept the ball in our defensive end a lot more than I wanted them to,” Stom said. “You would think that being a man up, we would have the ball and be possessing it on our end, but they had it on our end a lot longer than we’d have liked.”
The Lady Lakers held in long enough to score the winner with less than three minutes left and now they have a short rest because tonight they face Marshall County on the district championship. Kickoff set for 5:30 p.m.