BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS When Russell’s girls soccer team is clicking like this week, watch out.
The Lady Devils put it all together in the 16th Region Tournament, pulling away from Rowan County 4-0 for the championship Thursday night at Russell Soccer Complex.
Sophomore Georgia Arrington set up the offense with three assists — two to Taylor Stamper — as Russell dominated possession and appeared poised to make another run in the State Tournament.
The Lady Devils, an Elite Eight team last season, won their fourth region title in five years. Rowan County coach Alan Evans was impressed by the latest one — fueled by a lineup with no senior starters.
“They are just playing at a different level,” Evans said. “It boils down to them being proactive and us being reactive. We had to match their physical play and we were never able to do that.”
Evans said he looks for Russell to represent the region well in the Sweet Sixteen.
“They have six girls that can score,” he said. “As a team, they are physical, fast and play with touch. They check all the boxes.”
Next up for Russell is the Semi-State round. The Lady Devils will travel to Perry County Central on Tuesday to meet the 14th Region champs, who defeated Estill County 2-0 on Thursday.
After watching his team shine in the region tournament, Russell coach John Perry is looking foward to what’s next. He said Russell (9-9) is reaping the reward of playing a difficult schedule.
“We kind of took our licks early,” Perry said. “We’re peaking at the right time. Even though we’re sitting at .500, this is when you want to be playing your best. This is when it matters.”
The Lady Devils displayed teamwork all over the field.
“We’re playing really possession-based, moving the ball from back to the middle and up to the front,” Arrington said. “Everybody is doing their part.”
Arrington is feeling like her old self after dealing with concussion issues and ankle problems over the past year. She loves distributing the ball.
“It makes me smile from ear to ear,” Arrington said of her assist hat trick. “I think of myself as selfless.”
Her three assists came off two direct kicks and a corner kick. Arrington lofted a first-half free kick that rattled off the upper corner of the frame and bounced across the goal face to Callie Jackson, who finished the play. Jackson, the Lady Devils’ starting goalkeeper for much of the season, got a start at forward filling in for injured Renae Keeton.
“After we scored the first one, we looked at each other like ‘We got this,’” Arrington said. “We wanted to protect home field and the title.”
Rowan County (13-6-2) hung tough before Russell added three goals in the second half. Lady Vikings keeper Maegan Gonzales leaped to stop another Arrington free kick and Stamper put in the loose ball with 33:21 remaining.
Stamper scored off an Arrington corner kick later in the half.
“Georgia is good at serving those balls in from the corner,” Stamper said. “We all wanted this game very badly. We really want to get back to the Elite Eight. That’s our biggest goal.”
Callen Johnson made it 4-0 with just under three minutes left. Kylie Busick’s hard shot was deflected and Johnson took it out of the air on a hop and drilled the ball into the net.
Evans said he expected Rowan County to finish around .500 this team after losing several players, but praised his squad for “overachieving.”
Sadara Copher (Bath County), Lexy Evans (Greenup Co.), Taylor Hall (East Carter), Taylor Jackson (East Carter), Mollie Blevins (Boyd Co.), Shelby Smith (Boyd Co.), Kynidee Allen (Russell), Kenady Vice (Rowan Co.), Taylor Stamper (Russell), Maegan Gonzales (Rowan Co.), Georgia Arrington (Russell), Helen Bandura (Rowan Co.), Ainsley Bender (Russell).
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