Prep Soccer: Boyle girls blank Mercer 2-0 in rematch of regional final
Madeline LaFavers, second from left, celebrates with Alexis Kerbaugh (16) and other Boyle County teammates after LaFavers scored in the second half of the Rebels¿ 2-0 victory over Mercer County on Thursday. (Clay Jackson / August 24, 2012)
Boyle has been the area’s dominant girls soccer team for the past four seasons, and the Rebels weren’t about to give an inch to a Mercer County team that has put itself in a position to threaten that dominance in the last couple of years.
The Rebels possessed the ball for most of the game Thursday night and thwarted nearly every attempt by Mercer to muster some offense as they won 2-0 in a rematch of last year’s 15th Region championship.
“Mercer’s a little bit of a rival. They might have kind of implied that this might be a big game, so we were out to prove ourselves,” Boyle defender Logan Arnold said.
No. 19 Boyle made its point by outshooting Mercer by a 3-to-1 ratio and made its home opener a success when Madeline LaFavers and Hannah Harris produced two goals in about 6 minutes early in the second half.
An August game between the schools that have fielded the area’s two best girls teams in recent years had something of an October feel, complete with Boyle students in body paint and a physical brand of play that resulted in three yellow cards.
“I told the officials after the game, ‘You didn’t realize this one was going to be this intense,’ and they started laughing,” Boyle coach Brian Deem said. “I was prepared for it, and I told our kids. There’s been some things said about the new alignment, and it got back that they were disappointed because they wanted a shot at us.”
Mercer made it to the regional finals last season before a third loss to Boyle ended its season. All three of those games were shutouts, and the Rebels have blanked the Titans 11 times and outscored them 82-5 in a 14-game winning streak since Mercer last beat Boyle in 2003.
Boyle (4-1) controlled this game by controlling the ball. Mercer (1-2) scarcely had it at all in the first 20 minutes or so, and the level of possession remained lopsided for most of the night.
“We have been drilling in their heads since probably Monday of last week that we’re not possessing the ball. That’s all we’ve been practicing is possess the ball, possess the ball. It worked well Tuesday night (in a win over North Laurel), it worked well tonight,” Deem said.
Mercer’s defense held fast through the first half, but the Rebels broke through just over 7 1/2 minutes into the second half when Kate Carman outran a Mercer player to a free ball, then pushed it to LaFavers, who punched it into the top of the net to break the scoreless tie.
Harris doubled Boyle’s score with a penalty kick in the 54th minute after she was fouled. Carman missed a penalty kick about 3 minutes later that would have put the game even farther out of reach, but even two goals proved too much for Mercer, which managed only one shot on goal in each half and had only five shots in all.
“We’ve got some offensive issues to work out, and it’ll get better as the season goes. This is only our third game, and with two ranked opponents. It’ll get worked out,” Mercer coach Tony Brown said.
Boyle turned back most of Mercer’s advances near midfield, and Deem said that was due in large part to the play of Harris and Meghan Paynter, one of three freshmen and six underclassmen in the Rebels’ starting lineup.
“I was really impressed with Meghan and Hannan working together and switching the field. That was one thing that we really did well, found some gaps and got behind them,” Deem said.
When the Titans did manage to get the ball on their end of the field, they still couldn’t get it to their best offensive weapon. Shannon Murray, who ranked second in the state last season with 53 goals, managed to play the ball only about five times and got off only a single shot late in the game.
“We basically knew when she gets it she likes to have her back to the goal, she likes to make some kind of move and turn, so we were on her back and we didn’t let her turn. We didn’t let her have a shot,” Arnold said.
Boyle goalkeeper Keeley Naylor, who hasn’t allowed a goal in any of the Rebels’ wins this season, stopped both Mercer shots on goal. Boyle managed only six shots on goal, and Mercer goalkeeper Amanda Howard had four saves.
“The defense held up real well,” Brown said.
It was Mercer’s second straight loss to a ranked team —then-No. 10 West Jessamine shut them out two days earlier —but Brown said he believes the Titans will come around.
“They’re strong, and I’ve got tremendous faith in them. We’ll come together when it’s needed,” he said.