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The stage was set Monday night for an exciting game, as Carroll County and Henry County battled for the third time this season for a spot in the 31st District Championship against host Owen County.
The two teams split regular season matches, with Henry winning in a shootout at Carroll Aug 20, 4-3, and Carroll responding 10 days later at Henry with a 3-0 shutout.
The Lady Panthers came ready to play and had improved their defense and ball skills since senior night just a little more than a week before and greatly since August.
Head coach Greg Damron warned the girls about the Lady Cats’ physicality and aggressiveness, telling his team that this would likely be the most physical game they play all season. He was probably right, as both teams shoved for position and possession all night long. “It was a good hard-played game; they stepped up to the physicality of it,” he said.
Tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, the game went into two-five minute overtime quarters and on into penalty kicks. Henry hit their first two kicks, while Carroll hit none. Each missed their third round, but Henry made their fourth kick, 3-0. Carroll’s Teresa Garrett nailed her shot, keeping the Lady Panthers alive. But Teressa Deweese sealed the deal for Henry, hitting her shot, making it impossible for Carroll to win.
“It’s a big pressure,” Damron said of shooting penalty kicks. “In practice, they score, score, score, but all of a sudden you’ve got this much pressure on a kid and sometimes it’s hard. … It was another one of those situations where, did the better team win? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not, but that’s just the way it rolls I guess, especially when you get down to a penalty shootout.”
Carroll finishes the season (1-13-1)
The Lady Panthers pushed the ball into Henry County territory the majority of the game, especially during the second half, but could only connect on one goal.
Neither team scored for the first three-quarters of the game, as the two evenly-matched teams ground it out. Henry’s Katie Miller broke the tie about midway through the second half off of a corner kick. Corner kicks had been a trouble spot all night for the Lady Panthers, as the Lady Cats lined up in a cluster formation and ran off of screens toward the goal, rather than spread out and straight ahead. This made it harder for the girls to keep up with who they were defending, Damron said. “It was well played on their end as far as the corner kicks. They did a good job on it, capitalized on one.”
Down 1-0, Carroll striker Alex Skirvin took a pass from Kirsten Arvin and scored on a one-on-one effort against the Lady Catgoalie with about 13 minutes left.
The Lady Panthers’ best last shot of the game to score came with less than two minutes remaining when Skirvin’s shot from the left side hit just above the goal into the net on top.
Carroll lost defender Raenah Hawkins in their last regular season game last Wednesday against Ludlow to a knee injury. However, speedster Kirsten Arvin returned to the lineup after being out several weeks.
With Hawkins out of the lineup and Arvin back in, Damron had to shake some things up. He moved Jordan Bailey to defense, dropped Lidia Jimenez to midfield and moved Arvin up top. Damron said he was especially pleased with Jimenez’ play in the middle of the field, controlling the ball and passing it up to her teammates. She played almost the entire game, except the waning seconds of the first half, and “she stepped up and she played big,” he said.
Sierra Martinez also had some good looks on the wing, dribbling the ball down the sidelines and crossing it back to her teammates. Damron also credited Aleshia Winburn for her effort on defense. “Tonight she stepped and proved ‘hey, I am worthy of this spot,’ and the girls were really starting to respond to her well. I think she’s coming into it quite well.”
Damron and the Lady Panthers said farewell to seniors Hawkins, Jimenez, Bailey and Lyndie Burns. “The girls next year coming up have some major shoes to fill, but I think a bunch of them are up to the challenge to try and fill those shoes.”
“I can’t be prouder of this team,” Damron said. “This team probably made the most significant growth than any of the teams that we’ve had since we started the girls program. They’ve all excelled in their skill levels, and they’re just a good group of girls. They play hard and love each other; there wasn’t as much drama this year. I really hate to see the season end. … I really appreciate the support they’ve gotten from their parents and teachers and of course The News-Democrat, just a big thank you and look forward to next season.”