On a cloudy and somewhat rainy evening at Boyle County High School, the Southwestern Lady Warriors looked to advance to the 12th Region final over the Lady Titans of Mercer County. The Warriors looked to rally around Rebekah Clark, who was lost to injury during their quarterfinal matchup against Pulaski. One bright spot for the Warriors. however, was the return of Carrine Souders, who went out with an injury in the aforementioned game as well, as well as a whole lot of Southwestern fans who were behind them every step of the way. Through great teamwork and a boisterous crowd, the Lady Warriors were ready to fight to earn the right to play in the championship game. It was apparent throughout the first half that whoever was the team to score the first goal, that would be the team to win the game. No goals were scored through the first 80 minutes, so overtime was needed to decide this semi-final matchup. Finally, in double overtime, Southwestern was able to break through with the game winning goal with just over a minute left, securing their spot in the 12th region semi-final.
The story of the game really was the missed opportunities by the Southwestern offense, although they were running hard and playing strong defense throughout most of the game. In both the 5th and 6th minutes, Kelsey Miller had shots on the goal that were missed, while in both the 7th (just barely stopped) and 13th (a shot that was just barely saved by Mercer's goal keeper) Souders had shots on the goal, and these shots certainly wouldn't be the last they would attempt during the game. A shot in the 20th minute by Mercer's Marlie Charles went wide of the goal. 2 close opportunities for the Lady Warriors occurred in the 27th minute, as a shot from Miller went just wide of the net, and in the 28th minute, where following a corner by Miller, Souders about hit a header into the back of the net. Moments later, in the 31st minute, Souders had an absolutely beautiful cross pass to Miller, whose proceeding shot went over the top of the goal. A few minutes after an attempted shot by Southwestern's Natalee Foster went wide of the goal, the halftime buzzer sounded, and the Lady Warriors found themselves in an unfamiliar position as of late, tied going into the half with no goals on the board, as there was a 0-0 score showing on the scoreboard.
Southwestern got more shot attempts up early into the 2nd half of play, as a shot by Miller in the 42nd minute was saved by Mercer's goal keeper, a shot again by Miller in the 45th minute went wide of the goal, and then a shot by Souders in the 48th minute went over the top of the goal. In short, while the shots on goal were good, they just were hitting them almost too hard. A beautiful free kick in the 53rd minute by Southwestern's Ella Vaught was just saved by Mercer's goal keeper. More shots again were attempted by both Miller (57th and 60th minutes) and Souders (56th minute), but they just couldn't get the right contact with the ball on their kicks. The crowd at this point was getting louder and louder, begging for a goal by the Lady Warriors to advance them to a regional final for the first time in a very long time. Souders had 3 more very close attempts on the goal, in the 71st (wide of the goal), 73rd (just barely missed the side of the goal), and 74th (a free kick that barely missed the top of the net, probably by a foot or less) minutes, and you could tell by her body language she was getting frustrated, but still was trying her hardest and playing her heart out. A few more minutes went by, along with another shot attempt in the 79th minute by Souders that went over the goal, and the buzzer sounded for the end of the 2nd half, and with the 2 teams deadlocked at 0-0, this game would be going into a 5 minute overtime period.
In the 1st 5 minute overtime period, both teams played extremely well on defense, to the point where no real shot attempts were made on either goal. Being there in person, you could tell just how badly both teams wanted to win this soccer game. The buzzer sounded after a few minutes, and this game would now go into a double overtime period, again lasting 5 minutes, and if no team scored here, they would both go into penalty kicks to decide the outcome of the game. A shot in the 1st minute of double overtime by Miller was saved by the goal keeper of Mercer County. All the Southwestern fans thought the game was over when Mercer's Charles had a breakaway attempt at the net in the 3rd minute of the period, with no Southwestern defenders in front of her. However, the fans (and the players I'm sure) breathed a sigh of relief when her shot missed the goal just wide, and play continued. Finally, in the 4th minute of double overtime, and the 89th minute overall of this game, there was a huge congestion of players right near the Mercer County goal, and with their goal keeper slightly out of position, Jadyn Campbell found a way to get a foot on the ball and managed to find the back of the net, and just like that, the game was over! Campbell got immediately tackled in celebration from her teammates, and the crowd was going absolutely bananas! The Southwestern Lady Warriors found a way to win this game 1-0, and thus, punched their ticket to the 12th region Finals! Coach Nick Stringer was asked after the game what his emotions were, and he had this to say, as he fought back the tears of joy, "This is the first time in 4 years I've coached a game without Rebekah Clark on the field. We have like 4 or 5 or 6 girls we play in the attacking midfield in her place, and one of them that was in there at that time, she did everything that Becca does, smallest kid on the field, I'm so proud of Jadyn, so proud of all of them. They fought so hard, I told them, you do the right thing, you be in the right place, good things will happen to you." This will be Southwestern's first appearance in the 12th region finals, and so coach was also asked what that means to this group of girls, and he said, "Man, it means everything to them. They fight so hard, and they put in so much effort, and they are so tight, and they care and love about each other. They were devastated for Becca, none of these girls have ever played a high school game without Becca, to come out and do this, for her, for this team, for this program, for each other, its just awesome." The coach was clearly emotional and had every right to be, as the effort his team put out in this team was nothing short of awe-inspiring. Congrats to the Lady Warriors on this tremendous victory! Also, a shoutout to the Mercer County team, as they were putting their hearts into this game as well, especially their seniors.
The Southwestern Lady Warriors will advance to Thursday's 12th Region Championship game, with a birth in the State tournament on the line. The game will kickoff at 7 PM at Boyle County High School, and Southwestern will be playing the 9-time defending 12th regional champs, the Lady Colts of West Jessamine. Best of luck Lady Warriors, go bring that 12th region crown home!