West girls’ soccer advances, moves into state championship game

Published 3:58 pm Thursday, November 3, 2016


12th Region Tournament opener – Somerset 

12th Region Tournament semifinal – Danville

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12th Region Tournament championship – Boyle County 

State Tournament opener – Notre Dame 

State Tournament quarterfinal – Sacred Heart 

State Tournament semifinal – Simon Kenton 

State Tournament championship – Lexington Catholic – TBD

As the clocked ticked down to the end of regulation during Wednesday’s state tournament semifinal girls’ soccer match between West Jessamine and Simon Kenton, the Lady Colts found themselves in an all too familiar position — Tied, with the threat of penalty kicks looming on the horizon.

Despite the two-a-days during the summer, despite all the scrimmages and despite all the tiring stretches throughout the year, West’s season, once again, would come down to the helplessness of penalty kicks.

For the second time in three games of the state tournament, the Lady Colts were subjugated to the powerless nature of relying on the touch of the kicker and the instinct of the keeper. Yet this time a spot in the championship was on the line.

And for the second time during the tournament, it was West that rushed the pitch as the Lady Colts survived thanks to the nonchalant boot of Delaney Long that sent West into its first ever state tournament championship game.

“Games in November are the ones to remember,” West head coach Kevin Wright said to his players following the game. “I’ll have dementia and I’ll remember that. I’ll be telling somebody bedside, ‘Man, you should have seen that night over at Bryan Station.’”

What a game it was.

With busloads of West fans packed in the stands, Bryan Station had the atmosphere of The Palace; it was an ambiance that the Lady Colts needed as Simon Kenton threw the book in an effort to finally down the resilient Colts.

Much like the first two games against Notre Dame and Sacred Heart, West was stuck early in a defensive posture as the Lady Pioneers rode the talent of Abigail Zoeller. From the beginning, Simon Kenton attacked the Lady Colts’ defense — Zoeller would send two shots within the first 12 minutes that just missed wide and high.

“That girl is a beast,” Wright said of Zoeller.

West was able to counter, however. With Eva Mitchell dominating the past week’s headlines, the Lady Colts turned to Hailey Cole for the early offense; however, her shot around the 28’ mark was just saved by the Simon Kenton keeper, Skylin Yates. Mitchell would get her opportunity late in the half, but her shot, too, was snatched following a lunging save by Yates.

In the second half, the accolades went to West freshman keeper Anna Rexford. Her eight saves in the game not only preserved the tie throughout regulation and into the two extra periods, but it may have also earned her a Division I scholarship. With her in goal, West has allowed just one goal throughout the entire state tournament, and her ability to defend the goal against Simon Kenton propelled West into the state championship.

Of course, West wouldn’t be where it is today without the solid play of Taylor Perdue throughout the regular season. But Wednesday was Rexford’s night. As Wright said, it was a year’s worth of highlight in just one game.

It was a night that saw her sacrifice her body as she dove, parried, leapt and did whatever she had to do to make sure that ball stayed safely out of the goal. It was that tenacity that had the local TV crews clamoring to talk with her, and it was that tenacity that allowed her to claim the lunchbox for one more game.

As dominant as Rexford was in the goal, unheralded players such as Tara Martin, Saraya Young (though she had University of Kentucky scouts watching), Edie Meyer and others not mentioned were the glue that held West’s defense together throughout all of Simon Kenton’s 16 shots (eight on goal).

They were the group that frustrated Simon Kenton all throughout the match.

“That’s about hunger; that’s about heart and that’s about digging in,” Wright said to his players. “Guys, you’re going to play in the state finals. You’re going to play in the last game of the season. Nobody plays after that.”

As the two overtimes cruised by, and both teams unable to cobble together any form of consistent offense, the penalty kick portion approached with the obvious advantage leaning towards West. That could explain the cause of the first Simon Kenton PK sailing wide: nerves.

Mitchell would then score West’s first attempt and after Simon Kenton missed its final opportunity, it came down to Long, whose game-winning goal now gives West the opportunity to become the first school not in the triangle of Covington, Lexington and Louisville to win a state championship.

“We’re going to play for a state final on Saturday,” Wright said. “And we aren’t losing. We’ve come to far.”