By Les Dixon / For the Times-Tribune
The Corbin Redhound and South Laurel Lady Cardinal boys and girls soccer teams will begin their quest of capturing each respective program's first state title beginning this week.
The Redhounds (13-6-3) will be making a long trip to Ashland today, squaring off against the 16th Region champion Tomcats, who will enter the game with a 15-8-2 record, while South Laurel (15-4-1) will also be on the road Tuesday in first round action of the state tournament against 16th Region champion Russell (17-5-1).
Corbin at Ashland
The Redhounds are coming off an Elite Eight appearance from last season, while hoping to go even further this time around.
To do so, they must get past an Ashland Blazer team that looks to peak at the right time. The Tomcats are winners of three straight and five of their last six games after upending Boyd County in the 16th Region title game, 2-1.
Many didn't know what to expect out of Ashland once region tournament play began after seeing the Tomcats lose to Boyd County, 2-1, in the 63rd District championship game.
Ken Wheeler's squad responded in fine fashion, defeating Fleming County, 3-0, to open 16th Region Tournament play while following that with a close 3-2 victory over East Carter. That meant a showdown with Boyd County would take place in the 16th Region title game, and the roles were reversed with the Tomcats pulling out a hard-fought 2-1 win.
Ashland is led by Jacob Day along with Robert Wesley, Austin Kelley, McKenzie Malloy and Jacob Belville.
Corbin entered the 2013 campaign with a bull's eye on their back, and Cima's squad responded in fine fashion. After starting the season with a 2-2-1 mark, the Redhounds put together a five-game win streak and glided through region and district play by going unbeaten at 9-0, and 5-0, respectively.
Corbin had to rally from a 2-0 deficit before beating South Laurel, 3-2, in first round action of the 49th District Tournament and captured the district title with a 6-3 win over North Laurel.
The Redhounds didn't have any trouble with Middlesboro in the first round of the 13th Region Tournament, winning, 7-2, and followed with a 2-1 victory over Oneida Baptist to capture their second straight 13th Region crown.
Corbin is led by seniors Alex Thompson, Andrew Thaler, Walker Phillips, Ethan Pennington, Sam Marcum, Jesse Hyde and Ethan Hyde. Tulio and Lucas Canineu have also played a big role in the Redhounds' success this season.
South Laurel at Russell
Tuesday's match-up with the Lady Devils will mark the eighth time in nine years South Laurel has participated at the state level.
The Lady Cardinals are hoping to reach the Elite Eight for the second straight season, but coach Todd White admitted it won't be easy.
“Any time you play a team on the road it's going to be tough,” he admitted. “We've just got to battle through and settle down early, and hopefully we'll come ready to play.
“Russell has a good squad,” White added. “They also have a high-level play in No. 13 (Cara Maher). The big thing we want to do is continue our dominance and our tradition. We know things are going to run through her, so we're going to have to find a way to keep her from scoring and taking things over.”
Maher leads Russell with 26 goals on the season, but she has help with teammates Lexie Frisby and Heather Hencye following with 13 and 10 goals respectively.
“I feel like this is going to be an even game,” White said. “We're not entering this game as a heavy underdog. We might be one just a little because we're playing on the road, but I really believe this is an equal match-up for both teams.
“This is going to come down to who wants it more,” he added. “We're happy to be able to advance this far and we're hoping we can make it back to the Elite Eight again.”
Even though White's squad will have to prepare to find a way to contain Maher, the Lady Devils must do the same for South Laurel's Karli Parker.
Parker has 54 goals and 10 assists on the season while teammate Kristen White follows with a 17-goal effort.
“They're going to have to find a way to stop us, too,” White said. “We've got to have other players step up, and I believe we have had that this season. I feel like we can win, but if we don't show up ready to play, and not execute, then our chances will be tougher.”
If South Laurel comes out and plays like it has during the past four games, going 4-0 while outscoring its opponents 40-0 during the process, White's squad could be moving on to its second straight Elite Eight appearance.
“We're going up there Monday night, so we can avoid the long bus trip Tuesday,” White said. “The defining factor of the game could come down to who wants it more.”
Corbin soccer coach Armando Cima did not return calls for comments for this story.
By Les Dixon / For the Times-Tribune
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