Playing for only the third time in as many weeks, the Daviess County girls soccer team shook off any signs of early rust to beat Owensboro 7-0 in the District 9 Tournament semifinal Tuesday.
The coaches agreed to end the game with 32:14 left on the clock following a lengthy delay after an OHS player was injured.
The Lady Panthers (8-5-2) used a first-half hat trick from Meredith Campbell to take a big lead in the opening period. The Lady Devils (6-12-1) started five freshman as their injury-plagued season came to and end.
Campbell got the scoring started less than three minutes in when she scored directly off a corner kick. Midway through the period, Elizabeth Collier tapped in a deflected shot by Harlee Rone. Minutes later, Kenlee Newcom added a goal with an assist from Bobbi Sandifer.
Campbell said it was good for Daviess County to finally get back on the field, and they were clicking early.
“I thought our team connected,” she said. “Throughout the season, we had a lot of iffy games. Tonight, it really worked out. We were communicating and moving around.”
Campbell got two more goals late in the half with assists from Kayla Vanover and Newcom. She then assisted on a goal for Collier just before halftime.
“It always feels good to score, but it feels good to have an assist,” Campbell said. “It feels good to watch and not have any part of it and just see a nice goal from sitting on the bench. It feels like everybody did it tonight.”
The final score came at the start of the second period with a pass from Ashlyn Payton to Chloe Hinchcliffe to cap off a solid effort.
The Lady Panthers had several matches canceled due to weather conditions in the final weeks of the regular season, and Campbell said they had to regroup before starting the tournament. They had planned to use some of their final games to get a better measure of where they stood for the postseason.
“There were two games we needed to play to see what we were made out of,” she said. “It was awkward coming back after a break, but (head coach David Sandifer) gave us a talk about how it’s district, we’ve got this, we’ve been here before. It doesn’t matter how many games we’ve won or lost, we’re starting over.”
Owensboro head coach Casey Cundiff knew where his team was coming in, and that was a group full of youth and little experience.
“We have a lot of players out with injuries,” he said. “It seems like our whole season has been like that. One thing we’re going to take away from that is we have a lot of young players that got a lot of minutes tonight. That’s going to help us down the road. They’re going to learn from it.”
Their goalkeeper Alexis Faulkner — the eighth player this year to take on the position after several injuries — was one of five starting freshmen for the Lady Devils.
“She said she had fun, so I was happy for her,” Cundiff said. “She stepped up for the team tonight. I was happy with the way she played.”
Cundiff said he’s got high hopes going into the offseason after so many young players were able to gain experience. Playing in a talented district and region also helps teach the Lady Devils how to get better.
“When you play teams like that a few times a year, you learn some things on what you can do and what you can’t do,” he said. “You try to get better and build on it.”
The Lady Panthers will now head to the tournament championship against Owensboro Catholic, who beat Apollo 5-0 in the other semifinal. Both teams automatically advance to the Region 3 Tournament next week.
The teams have met twice this season, with OCHS winning 2-1 in a penalty kick shootout both times. Last season, the Lady Aces won both regular season matches, but the Lady Panthers beat them in both the district and region tournament championships.
Campbell is hoping they can repeat last year’s postseason success.
“It would feel so great,” she said. “We’ve been told playing Catholic is more mental than physical or skillful. We just have to play the game.”