How do you define a legacy? Its a question that gets tossed around a lot these days, especially when talking about an athlete making their specific sport's hall of fame, or even discussing the impact an individual made while they were living their life on Earth. Do you define it as the amount of championships you won, or accomplishments you made? Do you define it as how much you inspired the people who watched you? Do you define it as the effort you gave in whatever profession or sport you were pursuing? Well, for the 2021 Southwestern Girls soccer team, you can make the case that the ladies on the field (as well as the coaching staff) defined THEIR legacy using every definition possible. Although it wasn't the perfect season as far as trophies and the like are concerned, this team 100% defined their own legacy. A legacy that will echo throughout the halls of Southwestern and be in the minds of fans and players for the rest of time.

The 2021 Lady Warriors, coming off a 48th district trophy, and an appearance in the 12th region tourney that ended in their first match (versus crosstown rival Somerset), looked to improve on a 10-4-1 record coming into the 2021 season. With the fact that they had an very experienced team (along with reigning district player of the year Carinne Souders), many people were expecting Southwestern to be one of the top teams in a tough 12th region. Playing a full schedule for the first time in 2 years (since it was a shortened schedule in 2020 due to Covid restrictions), Southwestern began the year with a home game against South Laurel. In their debut appearance, the Warriors showed just how dangerous they could be, beating South Laurel 6-1, with senior Rebekah Clark scoring her first 3 goals of the season for an early season hat trick. Their next 2 games would be blow outs as well, with Ashlan Cunnagin scoring a hat trick against Danville, and Souders scoring a ridiculous 5 goals in their game against Knox Central (the first game i had the pleasure of covering on the season, and let me tell you, it really showed me how much of a team these Ladies were, even with Souders providing the 5 goals). The Lady Warriors would then lose a 0-2 heartbreaker on the road against Madison Southern (their only regular season loss of the season), but then immediately proved they had the ability to bounce back after adversity, coming back home and applying the mercy rule to McCreary Central 10-0 (with goals coming from 9 different Warriors, further proving their ability to share the ball and spread the offense around). Make no mistake about it, however, the heart and soul of this team were the seniors (Reagan Brummett, Vanessa Cortez, Kate Hutchinson, Kelsey Miller, Riley Sumer, Ella Vaught, and Clark). After 2 straight solid wins vs Wayne and Barren Counties, the Warriors hosted Boyle County for an important 12th region match, and they finally made it over the Boyle County hurdle, defeating them 3-2. An important victory for the Warriors, and with that being their hardest remaining game of the regular season, the table was set for them to finish the rest of the season without a loss. However, coming off the high of the Boyle victory, the Lady Warriors traveled cross town the game after to take on the Lady Maroons of Pulaski County. An unusually sloppy offensive performance ended with them leaving Maroon Field with a 1-1 tie, although judging by the rest of the season, the Lady Warriors seemed to take this tie in stride and use it to motivate themselves towards bigger prizes. Although their next game would be forfeited by Garrard County due to Covid issues, they went on a 4 game spree after where they were playing almost perfect soccer offensively and defensively. They defeated Whitley County 11-2 thanks to another hat trick by Clark, and a 4 goal performance by Souders, they easily took the rematch against PC 7-1 behind 5 different Warriors scoring a goal, and they then shutout Wayne County again with a 6-0 victory thanks to a 4 goal night by Miller. Finally, they once again mercy ruled McCreary Central 10-0 behind goals from 6 different Warriors (including another hat trick by Miller). The Warriors then continued their amazing play for the final 3 games of the regular season, taking out North Laurel 5-1 (featuring another Souders' hat trick), Corbin 4-2, and a beautiful 7-0 victory over Berea for the Warriors' senior night to conclude the season (featuring 5 different goal scorers for Southwestern). The Lady Warriors went into the postseason with 1 loss and 1 tie, and had dreams of grandeur waiting for them in the postseason.

Southwestern would open their 2021 postseason with their 3rd matchup against Wayne County on the season, this time for the 48th district championship. The Lady Warriors were out to show that their early exit from the 2020 postseason wouldn't be the same story this season, and behind their faithful fans and parents, they proved just that, giving the Lady Cards the dreaded mercy rule 10-0 to claim their 10th straight district title, with goals being scored by 5 different Warriors (including hat tricks by Souders and Miller). The Warriors advanced to the 12th region tournament once again, and just as last year, had a cross town foe as their first opponent, taking on PC for the 3rd time in the season, and with the Lady Warriors and Lady Jumpers on opposite sides of the bracket, it would be the championship before the top 2 teams record-wise would be able to face off against each other. Southwestern and PC battled for the full 80 minutes, but the Lady Warriors wouldn't be denied on their march towards their destiny, advancing to the region semi-finals with a 5-1 score (with Clark scoring yet another hat trick and Miller adding 2 more goals). Of note here, however, would be that both Clark and Souders, 2 key players, went down with injuries, and although Souders would return for the next game, Clark would be ruled out for the rest of the Warriors' post-season run. Their opponent there would be a very solid Mercer County squad, and the stage was set for a great region semi-final match. Let me tell you, this may have been one of the greatest soccer matches I have seen in person, with both defenses fighting with everything they had left to advance to the finals. Before I forget to mention this, the Warriors also ran a great platoon system with their goal-keepers (especially late in the season), with Lauren Tyler in the net in the 1st half, while Sumner would be in net to finish off the game typically. This move was particularly bold on the behalf of coach Nick Stringer and his staff, as it allowed them to not get one goalie tired and ensured they would always be on top of their game defensively. Back to the game at hand, the Warriors fought hard to get one step closer to their destiny. Although the Warriors were missing one of the key parts of their heart-and-soul on the team in Clark on the field, she would still be on the sidelines to cheer her team on. The Lady Warriors just kept on battling throughout this game, with the numerous SW fans in attendance applauding them along the way. The game went all the way to double overtime, and with only about a minute left, key reserve Jadyn Campbell found the ball and shot it into the back of the net, sealing SW's place in the 12th region final, and emotion exploded everywhere, from the fans to the players, definitely one of the most emotional moments I've covered as a journalist. Heading into the 12th regional final against multiple time champion West Jessamine, the expectation was widely seen as it was the Lady Colts' championship to lose. This didn't deter the Lady Warriors however, and with Clark in their hearts and minds, they took the field, with their destiny awaiting them. The 2 teams played it extremely close all the way through in a defensive battle. Unfortunately, this is where Southwestern would fall just shy of reaching their destiny and advancing to the state tourney, losing 2-0 after the Colts scored 2 goals very late into the 2nd half. As the Lady Warriors embraced and received the 12th region runner-up trophy, and the seniors taking in the fact that this would be the last time they would put on the Southwestern jersey, the fans cheered as loud as they could, clearly proud of how hard the Lady Warriors had played throughout the season.

So circling back to my first question, what defines a legacy? Whatever your answer may be to that question, it is safe to say that the 2021 Lady Warriors have earned the right to say they created their own legacy, in their own way. I for one found myself inspired throughout my season of covering them. Inspired in the way that they would lift up their teammates no matter the situation, and inspired in how hard they worked on the field to accomplish their dreams and goals. The 2021 Southwestern Lady Warriors Girls Soccer team may not have made it to the state tournament, BUT, they will forever live on as one of the greatest and most hard-working teams to ever be fielded by Southwestern, and dare I say, in my humble opinion, in the whole state. Congratulations to the coaching staff, and all of the following players: Felicity Baird, Reagan Brummett, Jadyn Campbell, Rebekah Clark, Vanessa Cortez, Ashlan Cunnagin, Jaycee Daulton, Shaley Daulton, Haylee Flynn, Jessalyn Flynn, Natalee Foster, Kate Hutchinson, Sydney Jones, Cadie Layne, Savanna McCarty, Kelsey Miller, Emily Morrow, Ansley Mounce, Tatyana Peters, Cheyenne Phillips, Destiny Sadler, Carinne Souders, Riley Sumner, Josie Traver, Lauren Tyler, Ella Vaught, and Caitlin Williams. The Lady Warriors WILL be back, and these ladies truly proved what it meant to be, Warrior Strong.

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