Some things never change.
The latest edition of the Russell-Ashland girls soccer rivalry doesn’t nestle into that category.
Russell used a hat trick by senior Ashley Huffine and strong midfield play to down the LadyCats, 5-1, on Wednesday at Ashland Soccer Complex.
The Lady Devils completed a regular season sweep of Ashland en route to earning the No. 1 seed for the 63rd District Tournament. The victory marked the first time in five years that Russell beat its biggest rival twice in the same season.
“Our middle played a lot better tonight, and we passed a lot better than we have been,” said Russell coach Joe Grizzle. “I think that was the difference in the game. Our communication was much better too ...”
“... They talk all the time until they get out on the field,” Grizzle joked. “We’ve been telling them communication is the key.”
Ashland coach E.B. Lowman discovered something that never changes.
“I’ve coached for a long time,” he said. “And almost without fail, during a year, there’s a game where you just don’t mentally show up, emotionally show up. We had it tonight.”
Charity Collins supplied a promising start for the LadyCats (8-6-2) with a penalty kick at the 19th minute of the first half.
Sarah Hudson initially took the PK, but after she kicked the ball before the official blew the whistle, Lowman called for a quick change.
“I just switched my shooter,” Lowman said. “They had already seen what Sarah was going to do. I wanted a different look.”
Collins pushed the ball past Russell goalkeeper Jalyn Forsyth to give the LadyCats a 1-0 advantage. Collins, a sophomore, leads the team with 21 goals.
Ashland’s lead was short-lived, though, as Russell settled into a groove.
First, it was Heather Hencye with a strong left foot to tie the game at one goal apiece. She’s right-footed, but the junior has displayed a bit of foot ambidexterity lately. She also nailed a goal with her left in a 3-0 win over Boyd County this week.
“We’re trying to get her to shoot more,” Grizzle said. “She’s just so unselfish.”
Not more than two minutes later, Huffine found the net for the first of her three goals.
Huffine, this time with an assist from freshman Morgan Vonderheide, added another at the 30th minute to put Russell ahead 3-1.
Favoring her right leg, which is taped and wrapped up due to a season-long battle with a quad injury, Huffine bore down for another score early in the second half. The capper of the hat trick came on a deflection off Ashland’s goalkeeper’s hands.
“(Huffine) is just so tough. She’s physical, fast — she’s a lot faster than people realize — and she’s strong,” Grizzle said. “She does a lot for us out there.”
Huffine was also pivotal in Russell’s 4-3 defeat of Ashland on Aug. 21.
Despite the growing cushion, Huffine remained in the game on Wednesday.
“She said, ‘this is my senior year, this is Ashland,’” Grizzle said. “So I told her just to drop back and play defense. There was no need to be pressing or running.”
Hollie Hencye, a freshman, provided the final goal for Russell on a penalty kick.
The shot initially appeared to be halted by a diving Katie Hornbuckle. However, the ball trickled just inside the goal off her fingertips.
Lowman lost his primary goalkeeper, sophomore Aidan Young, in the first meeting with Russell. As Young nears her return, Lowman has tried various looks at goalkeeper — Megan Downey played there the entire first half before Hornbuckle replaced her.
LadyCats Allie Slone and Abbey Hart each left with injuries, neither of which seemed serious. Lowman didn’t know their statuses right after the game.
“We’re pretty beat up and banged up right now,” said the LadyCats coach.
Russell (10-5) allowed very little action for the Ashland offense in the second half.
Overall, the Lady Devils outshot the LadyCats 16-11.
AARON SNYDER can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2664.
Russell gets rare back-to-back wins over Ashland
Some things never change.
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