The Lady Panthers are district champions for the third consecutive season. A hat trick by Chloe Hinchcliffe boosted the Daviess County girls soccer team to a 6-1 victory over Owensboro Catholic in the District 9 Tournament championship at Apollo Thursday night.
Three years in a row, the Lady Panthers (9-5-2) have lost both regular season matches to the Lady Aces (11-6-1), but come out victorious in the district championship.
Hinchcliffe led the way with three goals, but said it was playing unselfishly that was key for the Lady Panthers.
“Once you lose twice to a team, it’s pretty hard to come back sometimes, but it feels good when you do,” she said. “We decided to play for each other and pressure the ball really hard. Once everyone is on the same gameplan, it falls into place. We do really well together.”
Hinchcliffe started off the scoring by getting into the box for an unassisted goal in the 18th minute. She doubled the lead just past the midway point of the first half with a pass from Avery McNeily. McNeily took the ball up the left side and sent a long cross in front of the net, where Hinchcliffe was able to finish.
The Lady Aces were able to cut the deficit in half with three minutes to go in the period. Izzy Stanfield collected the ball at the top of the box and powered a shot through for the score.
OCHS head coach Kelli Brannock said she was proud of how the team started, but they weren’t able to capitalize on a few chances.
“I was happy with the way we came out and played at the start,” Brannock said. “We hit a crossbar and a post, and we had some balls bouncing in front of the net. You have to put them in. If you put them in, you get the momentum.”
The momentum went with DCHS in the second half thanks to three goals in the first 10 minutes of the period. Ashlyn Payton put in a header directly off a corner kick by Bobbi Sandifer less than four minutes in, and Hinchliffe soon followed with her third goal. She was able to beat a defender near the goal and roll one just inside the post.
Payton got another assist a few minutes later when her shot was deflected back out to the middle of the box, where Harlee Rone punched it in for a 5-1 lead with 31:36 to play.
A final score came from Hannah Hurt with 13 minutes to go, as she lofted a shot just over the goalkeeper and off the right post.
After coming out on the wrong end of two tight contests in the regular season, Daviess County head coach David Sandifer said the mentality of playing as a team was the difference this time around.
“Basically what we try to instill in them is to think assist first,” he said. “Don’t think score. If you want to do your job, help somebody else do theirs. Tonight they did a really good job of that. If something broke down, then somebody else was there to help pick up the pieces. They did a good job supporting each other.”
Both teams still advance to the Region 3 tournament, currently scheduled to be played at Meade County next week. The two have meet in the region championship four consecutive years, with the Lady Panthers only victory in that stretch coming last season.
Brannock said losing obviously isn’t fun, but at least they get to continue the postseason.
“We’re going to regroup,” she said. “We’ve got next week. Now it’s do or die. We’ve got to put everything we’ve got into every play, every minute, every half, every game and go from there.”
Hinchcliffe said she’s hoping another district crown will help give the Lady Panthers an extra push to help them repeat last year’s run to the state tournament.
“Winning the district for the third year in a row is a big boost of confidence for us,” she said. “It should help us along the way.”
Following the game, the all district team was announced as follows:
Lily Moore — OCHS, Player of the Year
Gracie Kemplin — DCHS, Goalkeeper of the Year
Lainey Armistead — DCHS
Aliyah Berry — OCHS
Meredith Campbell — DCHS
Macey Cundiff — OHS
Emma Eyre — OCHS
Chloe Hinchcliffe — DCHS
Hannah Hurt — DCHS
Genarose Jones — OCHS
Kara Morris — OCHS
Kenlee Newcom — DCHS
Ashlyn Payton — DCHS
Bobbi Sandifer — DCHS
Natalie Smith — AHS
Izzy Stanfield — OCHS
Shelby Taylor — AHS