Mays, Garrett and Charles each score for Mercer County
The Mercer County Lady Titans soccer team (12-7-1) took the pitch against the Somerset Briar Jumpers (12-7-1) in a late night 12th Region Tournament matchup played at West Jessamine High School on Monday, Oct. 14. They defeated the Briar Jumpers 3-0 to advance to the region semifinals.
Mercer County used strong defense to keep a shut out, only allowing one shot on goal the entire match.
“Our defense did a great job keeping the ball out of our defensive third majority of the night. Only allowing one goal was accomplished through team defense,” said Head Coach Josh Culver. “Everyone stepped quickly to the ball to provide quick pressure which didn’t allow Somerset a lot of time to make decisions with the ball at their feet.”
Mercer’s back line of seniors Abby Rogers and Abby Steele along with sophomore Suly Smith and junior Erin Darland were a force to be reckoned with all night on the back line.
“Our back line did a fantastic job of keeping the ball in front of them the majority of the night and covering for one another while providing heavy pressure.”
Mercer County controlled possession from the onset, but after numerous shots on goal, could not get one past Somerset’s keeper, Lainey Barnett.
With 25:22 left to play in the first half, sophomore Love Mays connected on an assist from junior Abby Dean and blasted the ball in the back of the net giving Mercer the 1-0 lead.
As the first half came to a close, the Lady Titans had fired numerous shots on goal, to Somerset’s one shot. The score remained 1-0 going into halftime.
In the 2nd half, the Lady Titans came out and played very disciplined soccer, while the Briar Jumpers were still looking for the equalizer.
The score remained 1-0 with 13:13 left to play when junior Bella Garrett blasted a well placed ball outside the 18-yard box past Barnett into the back of the net. Garrett’s goal gave Mercer a 2-0 lead and some breathing room heading into the final 10 minutes of play.
With 7:48 left to play in regulation, sophomore Marlie Charles picked up her 12th goal of the season with an assist from Mays to put the Lady Titans up 3-0.
Mercer County had more opportunities to score, getting off a total of 39 shots.
“Sometimes we were a little too unselfish and decided to make an extra four or five passes when one to three passes would do,” said Culver. “The goals that were scored developed off movement into space between defenders and attacking space with the ball. We did an excellent job of drawing defenders to an offensive player which allowed us to open more space for others to get in behind offensively. Love (Mays) and Marlie (Charles) did an excellent job of cutting in when the ball in on the opposite side of them, which puts more bodies in the box. Bella (Garrett) was able to take on two defenders and attack space with speed to allow her to get open for her goal as well.”
The Lady Titans now, 12-7-1, move on to the 12th Region semifinals to take on the 45th District Winner, the Garrard County Lady Lions (15-4-0).
Garrard Co. advanced in Monday’s early matchup by defeating the Southwestern Lady Warriors on penalty kicks.
“Watching the Garrard County and Southwestern game, we were able to see what strengths they have as a team,” said Culver. “Garrard County’s defense is solid in the back line and do a great job off clearing the ball when it is in a dangerous position.”
Marianna Cortes and Nancy Perez are both versatile players for the Lady Lions who are able to make plays defensively and offensively.
“It seemed that a lot of their offense flowed through those two players in some way. Those are definitely two players we have to keep an eye on throughout the game,” said Culver.
The semifinal match will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 16 at West Jessamine High School.
Goals (MC) – Love Mays (15’); Bella Garrett (67’); Marlie Charles (73’).
All photos by Joy Connelly: