Bethlehem makes a Statement. LOUDLY!!! In 5th Region Finale
After playing in one of the most exciting 5th Region Girls Soccer Championships EVER, and an epic run to the KHSAA State Soccer Final Four, one question still remained. What do the Bethlehem Lady Banshees do for an encore? After returning their two prolific scorers (sophomores Abigail Proctor and Maddie Sparks) and the bulk of their defense, the rest of the Region was interested in how coach Ben Rossoll’s team would handle success.
After sweeping the 19th District and winning the District Tournament with ease, the Lady Banshee’s saw their Tournament bracket and had to wonder “What?” They would be pitted against the powerful Central Hardin Lady Bruins in round one and would most likely have to face Elizabethtown in the final. The 19th District Champion would most definitely have the toughest road to repeat. The Lady Banshees blitzed the Lady Bruins 4-1 in a Sunday afternoon game with Sparks scoring twice, Proctor once and Miranda Blanford once. The defense was superb throwing a blanket over the Lady Bruins dangerous scorers.
Next up was Taylor County and Bethlehem showed their offensive versatility when six different girls found the scoring column with Proctor’s hat trick, Haley Nelson got two, Sparks had two and Carley Beam added two more in a 11-1 win. Now what was about to come their biggest challenge in Elizabethtown. They were defensively SCARY!!! Allowing only seven goals all season while compiling a 14-4 record. Despite losing scorers Dani Wilson and Rebecca Black in consecutive seasons, coach Pat Black found new scorers in senior Samantha Wilson and Paige Palalay. Also, the Lady Panthers were still stinging over the shootout loss last season and had something to prove.
The Lady Banshees had scored 101-goals this season and Elizabethtown planned to try to make it difficult for Proctor to get free and roam with ease and make things difficult for Sparks. It didn’t work. The final 6-1 score wasn’t just a surprise, but a bit shocking against a defense which hadn’t allowed a goal in the playoffs in three games. Sparks got things going with a goal 5:00 in the first half, then Elizabethtown answered with Sarah Been’s first goal of the season to tie it up. Then Sparks responded to make it 2-1 and then Carly Beam put one in the net as the first half ended. With Nelson running the offense like a veteran, the Lady Banshees looked like a pinball attack scoring at will. The 4-goals allowed was the most by any team against Elizabethtown all season in one game. It was about to get worse. While the Lady Banshees were holding the Lady Panthers scorers in check, Sparks collected her third goal off an assist from Beam to make it 5-1 and then Proctor ended the scoring with a beautiful cross just inside the goal as she was drifting pass the left side bar.
As the clock ticked down, the Lady Banshees celebrated their second 5th Region Trophy like a team which had something to prove in a season when every team they faced wanted to take their best shot at them. “We have had a target on our back this season and now people know who we are, so we can’t surprise anyone.” Said Sparks. It wasn’t like they had smooth sailing all season long. Goalie Abby Elder broke her arm early in the season and was replaced by Rachel Allen, who did an excellent job until Elder came back. Various players had dings and injuries as the team just moved on and in the biggest game of the season for them made a statement. A VERY loud one in fact, showcasing their diverse scorers and a fast and quick defense that held two of the best area team to just two goals.
The Lady Banshees will host a playoff game next Monday and you can imagine it will be much more enjoyable than last year’s game at Mercy Academy in the rain. Perhaps Beam gave the best closing note when asked if the second trophy was more enjoyable than the first. Her response was “No! The first one was definitely the best because it was so new to us. You never forget the first time.” For now, to a lot of happy Lady Banshees, the second one still feels just fine!