The Daviess County boys soccer team continued a string of dominant success as they won their fifth consecutive District 9 tournament championship Wednesday night.
The Panthers (18-2-1) got a hat trick from Brian Winkler en route to a 5-0 win over Owensboro (14-5-1). Both teams advance to the Region 3 tournament next week.
Winkler, who was named the District 9 player of the year during the postgame awards ceremony honoring the all-district team, said Daviess County came out with a better drive than in recent matches.
“I think we were more intense and more aggressive than before,” he said. “We worked well as a team.”
DCHS head coach David Sandifer said Winkler set the school record for goals — he set the assists records earlier this year — and continued an impressive season.
“I was happy he broke out of a mini goal slump,” Sandifer said. “He was still contributing those games he wasn’t scoring. He was getting assists and setting people up, but it was nice to see him get back on the scoring sheet.”
The Panthers got things rolling in the seventh minute when Jacob Boling rifled a shot from the top of the box for the first score. Boling added his second goal in the 19th minute on a penalty kick after a foul in the box.
Less than three minutes later, Winkler was able to get past the defense, beat the goalkeeper and punch in a shot from 10 yards out. The Panthers maintained the 3-0 lead through the half. Winkler said scoring early helped the team relax.
“It gave us momentum and boosted our confidence,” Winkler said. “It set up the second half for us to finish it off.”
Owensboro head coach Ryan Haley said he felt like his team came out prepared, but the effort trailed off as the game wore on.
“I thought we came out of the gate looking pretty good,” he said. “As the game progressed, runs from the guys in the middle became lazy. Their effort became our downfall.”
Haley was happy with his back line, and thought the entire team regrouped well at halftime. Eventually, he said, they got back into the same slump up front.
“Our back line played pretty well,” he said. “They did all they could to contain. I am proud of how we came out in the second half. But after 10 or 15 minutes, the middle of the field became the same way as the first half.”
The Red Devils were able to apply pressure early in the second period, but back-to-back goals from Winkler midway through essentially put the game out of reach. Sandifer said it was a good effort for the Panthers after playing a little slow lately.
“I was happy with the way we came out,” he said. “The last couple games, I didn’t think we were dialed in like we want to be and we weren’t focused on the task. Tonight I felt like we were mentally ready to play.”
Both teams now advance to the Region 3 Tournament, which will be played next week at Apollo. The draw for seeding and times will take place Saturday morning.
There’s a strong chance the two teams could meet again in the championship — a rematch of last year that ended 3-2 in overtime in favor of Daviess County. Haley said the Red Devils have the skills to win, but they have to stay focused.
“Daviess County has been the dominant team for so long that it’s in our minds,” he said. “We’re up for the challenge, but our kids have to mentally get over the hurdle. It’s a head game right now.”
As they carry their success into the next level of the postseason, Winkler said the Panthers need to stick to the plan and stay focused.
“I think we have to keep the same mindset,” he said. “We have to keep going forward, take it game by game and keep playing hard and playing aggressive.”
Following the game, Winkler and 18 other players were name to the all-district team, which included:
Cole Blandford — OCHS
Jacob Boling — DCHS
Harrison Bowman — AHS
Hunter Clark — DCHS
Jacob Dowdy — DCHS
Joe Fusco — OCHS
Paxton Jenkins — OHS
Jaelin Kirk — AHS
Wes Knott — AHS
Grayson McFarland — OHS
Max Miller — DCHS
Kevin Payne — OHS
Ander Saltsman — OHS
Declan Sandifer — DCHS
Yo Shi Ya — AHS
Austin Sovar — OHS
Sui Thang — AHS
Porter Watkins — DCHS
Brian Winkler — DHCS (player of the year)