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Scoreless tie leaves many questions

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Anderson escapes late Woodford threat; Must continue playing tough defense

By John Herndon

VERSAILLES – Half-full or half-empty? Smile or frown? Sunshine or rain?

All might perfectly describe the choice of emotion after Anderson County's girls' soccer team fought to – or escaped with – a scoreless tie with long-time rival Woodford County last Wednesday night.

Half-full? Anderson had periods of dominant play offensively, and withstood a barrage of Woodford attacks with some outstanding defense.

Half-empty? Woodford had periods of dominant play offensively and just missed the net three times, most notably during an all-out push with less than three minutes to play.

Smile? It was not a district loss. Frown? It wasn't a district win.

Sunshine or rain? You get the picture.

“It's all going to come down to the tie-breaker,” Anderson coach Jason Earnest said of the top seed in the District 25 Tournament. That is, of course, assuming that Anderson, ranked 15th in the state, and No. 22 Woodford take care of business in the other district games. Both teams were 2-0 in district play after Wednesday's deadlock.

Earnest said the tie-breaker is goals allowed in district games. After last week's matches, Anderson had blanked two district foes, while Woodford had shut out three.

If anything, Woodford might be the team left wondering, “What if?”

The Yellow Jackets dominated play early, then after withstanding Anderson's best punch of the night, put together the game's most serious threat with 2:30 to go. Anderson goalie Emily Mager just got a piece of a  shot that caromed off the crossbar.

“That was just a great save on Emily's part,” Earnest said. “There's not a lot else you can say. What a great save!”

On the rebound, however, it appeared that Woodford had a clear shot at the potential game-winner only to see the shot bound off the left upright.

“Thank God for the post,” Earnest smiled.

And Earnest gushed with praise for his keeper. “Emily Mager is amazing,” he said. “She is playing so well for us right now. I honestly think she is one of the top three or four keepers in the state. ... She really saved us on a number of occasions.”

Woodford had threatened once in the first half, just missing on the second of three corner kicks before the halftime break.

The Yellow Jackets got off eight shots on goal, doubling Anderson's total, but Mager rose to the occasion, literally, with several leaping saves.

“I thought Woodford County played better in the first half,” Earnest said. “We had a shot in the first 30 seconds but Hannah (Pritchert) was just a little wide.

“In the second half, we started moving the ball around better.”

Indeed.

The Lady Bearcats slowly began to dominate possession and looked to have several scoring opportunities forming only to see Woodford able to thwart the threats with no damage. “We moved Taylor (Clark) out wide and that created some space,” Earnest said.

But with about 10 minutes to play, the tide turned Woodford's way again. “Part of that was my lack of substitution,” Earnest said, blaming himself.  “Part of it was that we got a bit rattled by the crowd.”

The crowd, slightly larger than most at girls' soccer matches, included a relatively large number in the Woodford student section that reacted vociferously to nearly every piece of action. A group of Anderson students was also very loud as the game wore on.

“The crowd was rowdy,” Earnest said. “Part of that might have been left over from the boys' game (which Anderson had won 2-1 four days before.)”

But when the final horn sounded, there were no joyous leaps. There were plenty of semi-dejected looks on both teams.

Nobody lost. But nobody won.

Lady Bearcats to host Western Hills

Anderson County will be hosting Western Hills in an important district match tonight, Wednesday, Sept. 8.

Earnest expects a much tougher match than those of the last two years, when Anderson rolled to a pair of 9-1 wins. The Lady Wolverines stood at 4-1-2 after the weekend and had won the Capital City Classic with three wins over district foes. Those victories, however, did not count in the seedings for the district tournament.

“Western Hills, I know they are very young and improving every year,” Earnest said. “Their coach (Gordon Rahn) is doing a great job of building their program back up after losing so many older players about three or four years ago. They took a big hit in talent and he is really doing a good job again.

“Their keeper has really done a good job for them so far and they defend very hard.”

With Anderson and Woodford County expected to fight it out for the district crown and playing to a scoreless tie last week, Earnest says he cannot over-emphasize how important district matches are.

“It is very important that we do not allow any goals in the district. ... With Western Hills, and the other schools, my girls know we have to go out and give a full effort if we want to earn that No. 1 seed.”

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com.