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Lady Panthers put forth their best all season, but fall 2-0

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By Kristin Beck

The Lady Panthers soccer team played its best game of the season Monday night in the 31st District tournament. Unfortunately, it was not enough, as they lost 2-0 to Henry County, ending their season. The girls finish with a record of 2-14.

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“That was probably the most amazing I have ever seen them all play together as a group,” head coach Greg Damron said. “We’ve always had one or two girls really always be that spotlight, but tonight, everybody was involved, everybody was making their plays.”

Because of how scheduling fell, the girls had two weeks off in between their last regular season game at the tournament, including fall break. During that time, Damron said they worked really hard on passing and “not playing that kickball that we traditionally do. Our practices have been nothing but game of possession, game of possession, game of possession, control it, control it, control it. And it transitioned well into tonight’s game.”

The Lady Panthers passed the ball with a purpose Monday night, playing to space and finding their open teammates. They also took more shots on goal than they have all season.

Henry County started the game off a little quicker than Carroll County and scored their first goal in the sixth minute off a shot from about the 18-yard line. That jump-started the Lady Panthers offense. About six minutes later, senior Alex Skirvin took off on a breakaway and took a shot that was saved by the Lady Cat keeper. She got another shot two minutes later after a run by junior Satori Drake down the sideline, and senior Sierra Martinez took two shots of her own back-to-back but was unable to convert. 

“Stay up! Stay up!” Damron yelled from the sidelines after every shot, encouraging the girls to keep up the intensity. Drake took a shot of her own about two minutes later, but it also was blocked.

Henry County made a run late in the half and took multiple shots on goal, but they were blocked by senior keeper Nicki States. At the half, Carroll trailed 1-0.
Damron told his team at the half that they were playing “unbelievable,” and the girls needed to keep up the pressure and not let up.

The Lady Panthers listened and did not back down. The offense had multiple opportunities early. Two that stood out were a cross by Drake and run-in by Hailey Ashton and another seven minutes later between Ashton and Martinez. However, both times, the Henry keeper was able to snatch the ball away just in time.

The Lady Cats scored their second goal in the 26th minute on what Damron called a “junk goal,” as the ball was bouncing around in front of the goal and slipped in.

Despite the score, the Lady Panthers kept their spirits up and
continued to attack the Henry County defense.

Junior Teresa Garrett and sophomore Miranda Groseclose also got off some shots on goal from the midfield position, but they were unable to get the ball in the net.
Damron said he does not think Henry County expected them to come out with so much offensive firepower.

“They were really leaning on (keeper Sophie Hughes) to stop everything,” he said.

“To me, we got beat 1-0 tonight by score,” Damron said. “But by sheer desire, sheer heart, we came out champions tonight. And I do not believe that’s there is going to be another game this tournament that is going to be as heartfelt and as driven as this game was tonight.”

Damron emphasized that everyone played a fantastic job, but also pointed out that Garrett did a good job of controlling the middle of the field. Groseclose stepped up in the stopper position and moved the ball up the field when Garrett dropped back, he said.

Damron said sophomore Kelsey Wallace and senior Carley Hunter both did a particularly good job on defense, containing their marks, and senior Kaylin Wallace excelled at dribbling the ball to the midfield and sending it up to the front line.

“Wish it had ended a little bit differently, but I have never been more proud of a group of girls that I am tonight of this group. Just a fantastic job,” Damron said.

With the loss, the season ends for the Lady Panthers, including the team’s eight seniors: Kayla Anderson, Angel Carbajal, Aleshia Winburn, Hunter, Martinez, Skirvin, States and Wallace.

“I wish the season went better for (the girls),” Damron said. “You saw tonight how, when they really put forth the effort, how fantastic they are, and I wish we had translated that into the season. The season I wasn’t too thrilled with. … We just couldn’t get that stride and whole group effort that we wanted, but tonight was drastically different and a privilege to watch.”

Skirvin and Garrett were named to the 31st District All-Tournament team.