The Owensboro Catholic girls soccer team, ranked 23rd in the state by MaherRankings.com, will try to take back the District 9 Tournament crown after running through the regular season without a district loss.
Daviess County, ranked 19th, is looking to win a third consecutive district tournament and make a return trip to state. Apollo and Owensboro will try to make the first step a difficult one for the Lady Aces and Lady Panthers as the District 9 Tournament begins today at Apollo.
Owensboro Catholic faces the E-Gals in the first game of the night, and Daviess County will play the Lady Devils in the second semifinal.
The district champion and runner-up will advance to the Region 3 Tournament, currently scheduled to take place next week in Meade County.
OWENSBORO CATHOLIC vs. APOLLO
The Lady Aces finished the regular season perfect in district play, though they did lose three of the last four games of the year. One loss came in the All “A” Classic State Tournament to eventual champion Bethlehem. The others came at home to Greenwood and Henderson County, who combined to only have three losses this year.
Head coach Kelli Brannock said it’s good for OCHS to play tough competition to get ready for the postseason.
“I think it’s good to be playing good competition at the end of the season,” she said. “We need to figure out how to use that to motivate us.”
The Lady Aces will play against an E-Gals team that had a season marred by injuries and players out for various reasons. Apollo head coach Mason Head said the silver lining has been the players who had to step up have shown much improvement.
“We’ve developed a lot of players this year who we thought would be playing supporting roles,” he said. “Because of varying situations, they’ve found themselves in pretty mainstream roles. A few of them have really come a long way and will get some significant minutes Tuesday.”
Owensboro Catholic opened the season easily taking down Apollo, but the second match was a closer contest. The third time around, Head is hoping it will be an even tighter game.
“There’s no mistaking it,” he said. “Catholic is a phenomenal team. They’ve pushed us around both times we’ve played them this year. Things change and teams grow. I expect a much more competitive game, and our girls will be ready.”
Brannock said just because they’ve won both times doesn’t mean the Lady Aces can let their guard down. They’ll still have to come out ready to play.
“Knowing Apollo, they’re going to come out with a good game plan,” she said. “We’ll need to pick it up and dig deep and play our game. It’s not just going to happen. We’ve got to put in the work.”
DAVIESS COUNTY vs. OWENSBORO
The Lady Panthers have only played twice in the last three weeks after a handful of games were canceled, and they are coming off a road loss to Bowling Green to finish the regular season.
The only district losses for Daviess County came to Owensboro Catholic, both times a 2-1 decision that came via a penalty shootout. The Lady Panthers had some significant injuries throughout the season, but head coach David Sandifer said the team is finally getting back to full staff.
“We’ve played some good soccer,” he said. “We’re starting to get a little bit healthier. We’ve played really well in spurts and had a couple of good results. We’re still working on a few things but are really optimistic going into Tuesday’s game. Hopefully we’ll play like we’re capable of.”
They’ll be taking on an Owensboro team that also suffered some injuries. After starting 3-1, head coach Casey Cundiff said losing players left a big impact on the Lady Devils, but he’s still proud of his team.
“We have a great group of kids,” he said. “Injuries have taken a toll on our team. We were playing good soccer midway through the season. Then a rash of injuries changed our team, and it changed what position everyone plays.”
The Lady Panthers came away with convincing wins in both meetings this year, and Cundiff knows it will be tough to take them down.
“I want the girls to play hard and give everything they have,” he said. “Daviess County is a very good team, but we want to make every play count and make it hard for them to move the ball against us. I know our girls will give everything they have, and that is all I can ask as a coach.”
Sandifer said he knows how important it is to take each opponent seriously, as he’s been on the wrong end of upsets in the past.
“For both teams, it’s win or go home,” he said. “We anticipate getting Owensboro’s best shot, and I’m sure they anticipate getting ours. We’re going to have to play well. We can’t just make assumptions that this game is a pass. They’ve got some quality players, and we expect a good match.”