In just the fourth year of the program, Lawrence County girls soccer moved to within one step of the state’s final four.
The Lady Bulldogs used two opportunistic goals by Mollie Workman and steady defense to defeat Ashland, 2-0, in the Semi-State 8 game on Monday at Lawrence County High School.
The 15th Region champions will take on Bowling Green, the 3rd Region champion, in the State Tournament’s round of eight on Saturday at 1 p.m. at Lafayette High School in Lexington.
Lawrence County was perfectly happy going on the defensive after Workman netted her second goal in the 45th minute. She used her left foot to lace a left-to-right rope into the nylon.
With the 2-0 lead, the Lady Bulldogs kept a stable of bodies inside 30 yards of the goal as Ashland’s offense kept knocking at the door.
Ashland outshot Lawrence County by a tally of 28-7. Lady Bulldogs second-year coach Brett Jenks showed little hesitation in crediting his defenders and Catherine Clay, his freshman goalkeeper.
“I think Ashland outplayed us, but I think our defense never bent,” Jenks said. “And our goalkeeper did an amazing job.”
Sarah Hudson and Charity Collins were the closest to making early noise for the LadyCats, but two of their first-half shots whizzed just over the crossbar and by the post.
“In the first half, we were just this high several times, or maybe this wide,” said Ashland coach E.B. Lowman, using his hands to demonstrate the distance between ball and goal. “I said then that these are going to come back to bite us, and they did.”
Lawrence County (22-2-1) broke a scoreless tie in the 18th minute. Alice Hudson’s corner kick found Workman lurking by the post. The ball seemed to sneak up on her, but she still managed to tap it in.
“I don’t know how that went in. It was a lucky shot,” Workman, a sophomore, admitted.
Originally, Workman was going to take the corner kick, but Lawrence County quickly made a change.
“Maybe that confused (Ashland) a little bit,” Jenks said.
Ashland’s Ragan Neil nearly evened things up, but again luck wasn’t siding with the LadyCats.
Lowman loved his team’s effort. He shook his head in disbelief at the outcome.
“Sometimes it can be a cruel game,” Lowman said. “That’s the funny thing about this sport. You can play just like we did, and get this kind of result.”
Ashland (16-7-4) endured a rough patch or two this season, but the big picture indicated a great year. The LadyCats won district and region titles amid its 10-game streak without a loss leading up to the semi-state matchup.
“Really, we overachieved this year,” Lowman said. “We exceeded my expectations. While it hurts, I am extremely proud of these girls.”
Jenks said hosting the game on Lawrence County’s home field served as motivation. A large crowd came out to support both teams.
“The way the rotation is, I told the girls they’re not going to get this opportunity again because the next three years the (semi-state round) is away,” Jenks said.
The rotation is among the 13th through 16th Regions.
Lawrence County didn’t want to fall to another 16th Region team. One of its two losses came to East Carter in late September.
“That East Carter game haunted them all year,” Jenks said.
Ashland put a couple more scares into the Lady Bulldogs in the second half but, with the valiant effort by Catherine Clay along with the solid play of defenders Ashleigh Adkins and Skylar Chapman, Lawrence County held on. Clay had two diving saves, including one on a free kick in which she laid out with full extension.
“She’s amazing,” Workman said. “We couldn’t have come this far without her.”
AARON SNYDER can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2664.