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Now the fun begins

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By John Herndon

Nearly everyone would like to think that his road to the top is filled with the toughest obstacles.

For those wanting to win the girls’ 25th District soccer tournament, it could be a reality, not an exaggeration.

We are sure there are probably stronger districts in Kentucky. The boys’ 27th District, for example, boasts that five of its six teams are in the state’s Top 25.

But there can’t be too many girls’ districts with more than two ranked teams. They’ll both be in action tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 15, as 14th-ranked Woodford County takes on Owen County at 6 p.m. and 16th-ranked Anderson County squares off against Franklin County at 8 in the district semifinals.

Both games will be played on the Anderson pitch.

Suffice it to say that both will be heavily favored to move on to Thursday’s championship game, which would be a rematch of the season’s opener, won by Woodford, 2-0, in Versailles.

“We are excited it’s here,” Anderson coach Jason Earnest said of the district.

Oddly enough, though, playing on its home field could be both a blessing and a hindrance. Anderson is at least familiar with field’s high crown that has caused so many visiting teams major problems over the years.

But sports at the high school level is about adapting to the existing circumstances.

It’s not like a Major League Baseball team loading up with left-handed bats to take advantage of a short right field fence or a college team, any sport, recruiting to take advantage of high altitude or heavy humidity.

At the high school level, you take what you have and adapt.

Anderson’s game is speed and passing. The more wide open spaces the Lady Bearcats have, the better they like it.

According to the National Federation for High Schools, a regulation field can be anywhere from 100 to 120 yards long and 55 to 80 yards wide. Anderson’s home field is nowhere near the largest size and with the school’s track and some drainage grates practically on top of the field, the de facto size is even smaller.

But the glaring need for a new facility at Anderson is another column.

More pressing is trying to win this week, then, because of the rotation of regional sites, host the region for the first time since the realignment of 2004.

Anderson has to beat Franklin County for the second time this year – the Lady Bearcats won 7-0 on Sept. 22 in Frankfort, but Earnest expects a much tougher time this time, even though Franklin had lost four of its last six games.

The Lady Flyers are still 12-8 against a relatively strong schedule and, Earnest says, will be in the “no tomorrow” mode.

“Franklin County will be a tough game for us,” he said. “They have kids that know ours very well, so they will come out fighting very hard.

“If we are unable to score early, things will get frustrating for us. Hopefully, we will play well and give up no chances for them, so we will eventually be able to put them away with our offense.”

And if the Lady Bearcats and Woodford both advance, it sets up what might be the biggest game ever played on the Anderson field.

While the Lady Bearcats of 2003 were ranked and hosted the region, not many thought they could beat Oldham County and South Oldham, two of the perennial powers, to win the region.

This year is different. Realignment put Anderson in a region with Woodford and many of the Lexington schools.

With the balance of power away from Lexington in girls’ soccer this year, there is a real chance for this year’s District 25 winner to advance all the way to the state finals, held at Georgetown College.

“Woodford is the best team in the district and region,” Earnest says. “They have been for years and until we beat them, they remain that way.

“They are very good, very well coached, have a stingy defense and have one of the top three players in the state – in my opinion – with Katrina Ott.”

The stakes could be higher than they have ever been for Anderson girls’ soccer next week. It should be the old guard, Woodford, against the relatively new kid, Anderson.

If Anderson gets past Franklin County, that is.

Earnest, a talkative sort who gushes praise to girls he calls “my team,” might have never uttered an understatement in his life.

Until last week, that is, when he was asked about this week’s tourney.

“It’s going to be a fun and competitive tournament,” he said.

Even with the major obstacles looming ahead.

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theanderson news.com.