Back in July, I was asked to spotlight an athlete for the Female segment of our Fall sports preview and it came to me quickly that Abigail Proctor and Maddie Sparks would be the subject of that story. You really couldn’t write about one without including the other. After all, didn’t the two become varsity players for the Banshee (I learned recently, you never refer to Girls Athletics as ‘Lady” just Banshee) soccer team at the same time starting the 2015 season along with a marvelous freshman class that also included Carly Beam, Jordan Cross and Miranda Blanford and didn’t it signal a change in the power structure of the 5th Region Girls Soccer universe?
So the two joined the Bethlehem Girls Soccer team along with an already strong team and changed the Region, which had been ruled by either Elizabethtown or Central Hardin since 2001. Both were great scorers and from their positions (Proctor is a Midfielder / Sparks is a Forward) were able to help control a game from an offensive point of view allowing their team to play with a lead most of the time and relieve the defense.
It didn’t always seem easy though.
From the time they first were formally introduced during the 5th Region Tournament in 2015 at Elizabethtown, they both looked a little out of place being so much shorter than the teams they were facing (Peyton Miracle was the tallest player on the team), but it didn’t take long for the Region discovered that this wasn’t just an ordinary team or an ordinary freshman duo. Sparks scored the only goal for the Banshees against the Lady Panthers in the Region final and Bethlehem finished the game with a shootout win as they won their first Region Championship on the way to their first Final Four appearance at State.
In their sophomore year, both Proctor and Sparks proved that their was no sophomore jinx as they team finished with 18-wins and another Region championship. The duo combined for 64-goals between them and 24-assists as their season ended in the first round of semi-state. It was then that the two began to realize that things weren’t going to be easy from here on out as Proctor finished the 1-0 loss to Simon Kenton with a cast on her wrist the result of an injury during the game.
Both players came back strong for their junior seasons as they combined for 60-goals between them and 31-assists as the Banshees won another Region Championship, but it wasn’t easy as Bardstown became a new nemesis and it was both Proctor and Sparks that collaberated on the only score on a corner kick in a 1-0 win. Once again, the opposition had staged an offensive even though the Banshees won 15-games. Going into their senior and final season, the question was how much better could they improve?
Despite losing a strong senior class from the year before, the Banshees responded with 24-wins, another Region Championship and another Final Four finish to end the season. The two combined for 70-goals and 41-assists between them, but their crowning glory may have occurred after an early season loss. A 9-2 defeat at the hands of DuPont Manuel signaled a change as head coach Dan Rossoll changed some things up and the Banshees would not lose again until early November.
It was during that fateful senior season that their one true quality really stood out as both Proctor and Sparks kept finding ways to win games for their team in the most crucial moments. Proctor got a nerve wracking last minute goal against Bardstown in the Region final that triggered a Region Trophy celebration. Sparks got the game winner in the Elite Eight win over Henderson County that sent the Banshees to the Final Four.
Ironically, it was Proctor, who got the game winner in 2015 against the same team in the Elite Eight.
The dynamic duo were two of the most clutch performers in the Region and will go down as such, but it wasn’t easy as opposing teams have tried to be physical with them and take them out of their game. Also, they have fought their way through their share of injuries as well.
Proctor suffered a leg injury during the Purple Classic that would hamper her much of her senior year and both she and Sparks (along with Jordan Cross) were also knocked out of last season’s Bullitt East playoff game, but eventually returned to help their team get the win. You don’t score as many goals as those two do without some bumps and bruises or teams taking their best shot at the team’s best money players.
So both Proctor and Sparks ended their varsity high school career with Bethlehem having each broke the century mark (Proctor 127-goals/68-assists and Sparks 130-goals/43-assists) in scoring. Under their leadership, the Banshees went through their four-year period going undefeated in district and region play, while going a perfect 10-for-10 in Region Tournament games and 4-0 in Region finals. Only the Elizabethtown Lady Panthers Region dominance from 2001 to 2009 is better.
Also, the two worked well with their teammates and everyone played better as a result. In an era of “Me” instead of “We” that’s something to thing about. Still, players like Haley Nelson, Sydney Greenwell, Rachel Allen, Abby Elder, Peyton Miracle, Megan Spalding, Morgan Saltsman, Morgan Yates, senior teammates Carly Beam, Jordan Cross and Miranda Blandford made them better as well.
It was a mutual relationship.
Still, one has to wonder what would have happened if the duo had chose to play volleyball and make that their primary sport instead of soccer. Paula, Abigail’s mom, who was a Marion County basketball star back in the day had said that if soccer hadn’t been a fall sport, everyone on the team would have played volleyball and according to Maddie they were pretty good (Ali, Maddie’s mom, who is a middle-school volleyball coach had them playing together in middle-school and they were pretty good).
A lot of “What Ifs!”
Whatever the case may be, both Proctor and Sparks will be playing college soccer in five months as they began their next life in adulthood. I will be interested in seeing how they adjust and a little bit sad as they finally leave the high school game for good, but most definitely not quietly.
I’m sure that what they accomplished will not be soon forgotten as defensive coaches can now relax a little bit as the two girls that entered as tiny freshman left the game like they entered it loudly and left plenty of big numbers that will be hard for anyone to match or equal, because for Proctor and Sparks it wasn’t just about the scoring, but getting the “W” as well and that’s why they are the Sporting times Co-Female Fall Athletes of 2018.