Anderson showcased at Marshall County

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By John Herndon

If there were any lingering doubts concerning Anderson County's place among the Kentucky girls' soccer elite, the Lady Bearcats answered them with a strong showing in the Marshall County Showcase, held at Benton in far western Kentucky Friday and Saturday.

The event was not a tournament, as it had been in the past. A decision by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association to rescind some expanded schedules prompted the tournament to adopt a showcase format with some of the best teams in the state squaring off.

Despite being without two senior captains, the Lady Bearcats won two of three, defeating Heath and Apollo before losing to the host school in the final game of the showcase.

"It was a great tournament and experience for us," said Anderson coach Jason Earnest. "We learned a lot out there but we also know we can play with and defeat the state's best teams. If we can get healthy and get this all together by the post-season, we know we have a great chance to do the things we want."

Anderson was without midfielder Paige Clark, who sprained her ankle in the Boyle County Rebel Shootout, and forward-midfielder Jessi Newton, who has suffered a quadriceps injury. "It is more than a slight muscle strain," Earnest said.

Friday, Anderson endured a four-hour bus ride before playing Heath, from the Paducah area. "We didn't know what to expect, but they were a pretty dang good team," Earnest said. "They stunned us from the beginning."

Heath, which came into the match undefeated, scored twice in the first 10 minutes. "They almost stuck in a third on us, too," Earnest said. "We finally seemed to settle down and play our game, which is passing and keeping possession. I was searching for changes in the midfield because without Paige and Jessi, we were struggling to get things under control there. I moved Elizabeth Mason from the wing to the middle and she was a star for us. She was fabulous."

Earnest also moved Taylor Clark to the wing and Hannah Drury to a forward slot. "These three changes really seemed to get us kick started. We really started playing better, passing better and we started to get a lot of chances.

"Mason made a terrific move and struck an even better shot that got us on the board and cut the lead to 2-1 with about eight minutes to go in the first half."

About five minutes later, Kara Yeaste lofted a free kick to Taylor Clark, who directed the ball to the net for the tie.

"We owned the second half," Earnest said. Taylor Clark finished with a hat trick and Earnest said keeper Rebecca Radcliffe had a spectacular save to stop Heath's lone threat in the final 40 minutes.

"We really wore down Heath, as we have a much deeper bench," Earnest said. "They have some very nice players, though."

Saturday, the Lady Bearcats defeated Owensboro Apollo 4-0. The Eagles were also without one of their better players. "Both teams really struggled to string any passes together," Earnest said. "We had the better run of things for sure, but it wasn't pretty."

Anderson took a 2-0 halftime lead, but Earnest said "Both seemed to be kind of fluke goals. Their keeper made a mistake on both. We were just staying with the play and following up like we are supposed to and we got two goals out of it."

The first one came when the keeper got out of position after stopping a shot. Yeaste cleaned up, putting the free ball into the open net. Four minutes later, Drury made the Eagles pay for another mistake, striking the open net from five yards out.

Drury and Taylor Clark both scored in the second half to get things to the final score. Carter had a pair of assists in the game.

"The final shot count in this game was 22-3 in our favor," Earnest said.

The Lady Bearcats then ran into the host team - "The biggest team I have ever seen," Earnest said. "They have so many girls that are almost as tall as me. It looked like we were playing a college team because of their size."

Marshall, ranked 12th in the state and the dominant power in western Kentucky, eked out a 2-1 win over the Lady Cats.

Anderson might have been a bit intimidated by Marshall's size. "Marshall County scored on us in the fourth minute, when a shot came from about 35 yards right over the head of our keeper. We didn't have any defensive pressure on them and let them take a couple of open shots from the outside. We must get better with our defensive pressure all over the field if we want to achieve our goal of getting to Georgetown.

"Marshall County was winning every ball out of the air. Well, they did tower over us. What was disappointing was that we were not even trying to challenge them to win anything coming out to the air."

Anderson regrouped but could not overcome the early lead or Marshall's use of the offside trap.

"We were much faster than they were but we just couldn't get that first goal we needed to get us started," Earnest said.

Marshall eventually took a 2-0 lead, but Anderson finally scored with 15 minutes to go as Carter delivered.

"This got us going. Our effort the next 15 minutes was tremendous," Earnest said. "If we would have played like this the entire game, it would have been no contest.

With eight minutes to play, Yeaste hit one upright, then the other as the ball scooted just outside the goal. Five minutes later, Carter collided with the keeper, but no Anderson player could clean things up.

"Not making excuses, but we had things go against us in this game," Earnest said. "It was our fifth game in six days. It finally became too much to overcome."