East Carter’s girls produced their first district and regional soccer championships a year ago.
Now, thanks to a district realignment, the Lady Raiders no longer have to contend with traditional powers Ashland and Russell on the district level.
Coach Ben Fritz can’t complain.
“It’s a very different situation,” he said. “It puts us in a situation where we don’t have to beat Ashland, Russell and those teams to get to the regional tournament. That’s huge for us.”
The revamped format has East Carter with Greenup County, West Carter and Elliott County in District 62 — one of three districts that make up the newly created 16th Region.
Ashland, Russell and Boyd County will battle it out in District 63 (Rose Hill Christian does not have a girls team), while District 61 consists of Rowan County, Bath County, Fleming County and Menifee County.
East Carter finished 16-4-1 last season. The Lady Raiders won the regional title on their home field, foiling Ashland’s bid for a third consecutive regional crown.
“Winning it was great for the program, and great for the school,” Fritz said. “We had people that had never been to a soccer game that were there supporting the girls.”
Despite graduating four All-Area players, East Carter returns All-Area Player of the Year Macy Dyer along with several other starters.
The Lady Raiders are off to another good start, outscoring Greenup County, West Carter and Boyd County by a combined 14-3 last week in the annual Tri-County Cup tournament.
“It was good to win it again, but we’ve got a lot of things to improve,” Fritz said. “At the same time, if we do, I think we will have a chance to be pretty good. We have quite a bit of experience.”
Dyer, a junior forward, scored 21 goals as a sophomore and also set the table for teammates.
“You look up and she’s all over the field,” Fritz said. “That’s just the way she plays.”
Other key returners for the Lady Raiders’ offense include All-Area selection Taylor Burnett and Lexie Cline at midfield, and Alexa Sturgill at forward. Amber Hall and goalkeeper Starr Caldwell are back to anchor the defense.
Sophomore Megan Stickler steps in at center midfielder after being sidelined last season.
“We’ve got a couple that were injured and didn’t get a chance to play,” Fritz said.
East Carter’s first district and regional championships haven’t led to complacency, according to the coach.
“Our leaders ... Taylor, Lexie, Amber and that group, are not going to be happy with last year’s success,” Fritz said. “They are going to push us to have another successful year, hopefully.”
Also in the 62nd District, West Carter, Greenup County and a young Elliott County program will be in the running to advance to the regional tournament for the first time.
Fritz said it looks to be an interesting year in the 16th Region.
“I think you’ve got to put Ashland and Russell at the top,” he said. “Hopefully we will be right there. I’ve heard Rowan County is a much-improved team. Right now, it’s anybody’s year.”
Ashland lost seven starters and its entire defense, but coach E.B. Lowman is encouraged by the team’s 2-1 wins over Montgomery County and Pikeville to start the season.
“I really did not expect to be 2-0,” Lowman said. “I know we have a lot to learn. We have most of the pieces, not all the pieces.”
The LadyCats, 13-5-4 last season, will count on two of the area’s top players — senior Sarah Hudson and sophomore Charity Collins — to lead the way. Hudson, an honorable mention All-State selection, had 12 assists and six goals last season while Collins racked up 27 goals as a freshman. She added one each in Ashland’s first two games last week.
Sophomore Aidan Young figures to split time between goalkeeper and midfield. Allie Slone returns at midfield and Emma Wonn brings some defensive experience. Both are seniors.
One of Ashland’s biggest concerns is a lack of depth.
“We’re going to have to get better as the season goes on and develop more people to play,” Lowman said. “This team has a lot of heart. If they come along like they are capable, I wouldn’t rule this bunch out.”
Ashland and Russell renew their rivalry Tuesday night at 6 in Flatwoods.
Russell expects to be right in the thick of the region race again with several experienced players from a 9-9-1 team.
Senior Ashley Huffine looks to build on a strong junior season that included 18 goals, 11 assists and second team All-State honors.
Leading a strong junior class are Heather Hencye, Taylor Huffine, Kodie Patrick, Brooke Fowler, Jalyn Forsyth and Jennifer Sloan. Coach Joe Grizzle is also expecting key contributions from sophomores Lexie Frisby, Shelby Huddleston and Alexis McMonigal as well as a group of freshmen.
The Lady Devils bounced back from a season-opening loss to Hurricane with a 2-0 victory over Anderson County on Saturday.
“We have a lot of good supporting players and good speed from the back to front,” Grizzle said.
New Boyd County head coach Nic Skaggs has the team off to a 2-1 start. All-Area goalkeeper Emily Stewart averaged 18 saves as a junior.
In District 61, Rowan County rates as the team to beat. Randy Wallace guided the Lady Vikings to a 12-6-3 record in his first season. Most of the team is back, led by All-Area picks Ally Hackney (22 goals, 7 assists) and Haley DeVaney (16 goals, 8 assists). Hannah Neeper added eight goals and five assists as a junior.
“We have a nice blend of veterans and new players,” Wallace said.
A young Lawrence County program is on the rise in the 15th Region after winning its first district title last season.
The Lady Bulldogs, who tied Rowan County 4-4 last week, plan to make a strong run at the regional championship after going 15-5-1 a year ago.
Shelby Hay scored an area-best 34 goals as a freshman. The sophomore group of Hay, midfielder Mollie Workman (20 goals), fullback/midfielder Ashleigh Adkins (12 goals) and midfielder Tori Dillon will again carry the load. Coach Brett Jenks is hoping that senior Amanda Haynes can step up and have a big senior year as one of the primary strikers.
The defense will rely heavily on Adkins and seniors Keisha Tussey and Kara Kirk.
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.
The Independent's 2012 Girls Soccer Preview
East Carter’s girls produced their first district and regional soccer championships a year ago.
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Two bunts and a swinging bunt helped the Lady Musketeers scratch across three runs in the fifth inning of a 6-2 victory over Raceland in the 63rd District Tournament opening round on Monday night at Russell High School. Top-seeded Russell defeated Lewis County, also 6-2, earlier in the evening.
Boyd pounds out 11 hits to go along with Grimm’s shutout, 14-0
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Different look, same results for Lady Lions
A longtime fixture in the 64th District softball championship game, Boyd County looked different this return trip.
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Greenup County scored eight runs on eight hits in the final two innings to defeat Raceland, 9-1, at Russell High School on Monday.
The will to win
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Steely eyed and lips pursed, the Boyd County senior is keenly focused and all business between the lines.
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