Lady Dragons score a 4-1 victory over Owensboro Catholic
LEXINGTON, Ky. – In what coach Cy Tucker called his “favorite novel,” Stephanie Rowland played the part of heroine.
Rowland capped her outstanding career with four goals and helped the South Oldham High School girls’ soccer team add to an already crowded trophy case with a 4-1 victory over Owensboro Catholic in Saturday’s State Tournament championship match at Henry Clay.
Tucker coached the Lady Dragons to six state titles in seven years from 1995-2001 but hadn’t returned to the state semifinals until this season. He compared the feeling he had after Saturday’s victory to the one he experienced after that first title in 1995.
“This season has been like a great novel,” said Tucker, whose team finished 23-4. “As anxious as I was to read the last chapter, I was also a little nervous about having to finish the book because I knew it would be one of those ones you didn’t want to end.
“But it couldn’t have been a better ending. Now it will be my favorite novel.”
Rowland, a senior who has committed to Ohio University, finished with 43 goals this season and a school-record 119 for her career. The career total ranks 21st all-time in state history, according to Kentucky High School Athletic Association records.
She was named the tournament’s MVP after scoring at least three goals in a game for the seventh time this season. No team had scored more than three goals in a state final since the KHSAA began sponsoring the event in 1992.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “I thought it was going to be a lot tougher of a game, but we definitely pulled through. My teammates got me balls, and they were pretty much breakaways. I just had to put them away.”
Owensboro Catholic (27-2) was playing in its first state final and reached it without a senior on the roster. Ambere Barnett scored for the Lady Aces, but their defense was no match for Rowland.
“We found it very difficult to control her,” coach Durand Engineer said. “Her speed was a big factor, and her finishing was excellent. She’s probably the only kid we’ve seen this year that could do that.”
Rowland got started early, sliding a shot in the bottom-right corner of the goal for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute. Her second goal may have been the most impressive as she outraced three defenders for a loose ball about 40 yards from the goal, dribbled and fired a shot from 8 yards out past goalkeeper Ellie Mitchell for a 2-0 lead in the 27th minute.
Barnett’s goal from 30 yards out made it 2-1 in the 31st minute, but Rowland answered right back with a goal that made it 3-1 in the 36th minute.
“It was big momentum for them and kind of a kick to the gut for us,” Engineer said of Rowland’s third goal. “It brought us down quite a bit.”
Rowland’s final goal came on a free kick from 34 yards out, placing it perfectly out of the reach of Mitchell for a 4-1 lead in the 65th minute. It was reminiscent of her goal in Wednesday’s 1-0 semifinal victory over Notre Dame.
“I told her (Wednesday), ‘You may never hit a free kick like that again,'” Tucker said. “I couldn’t believe it went in the other night. I really can’t believe it went in here.”
Already named a first-team All-Stater earlier this week, Rowland is considered among the favorites for the Miss Soccer award that will be announced next weekend.
Tucker said she definitely deserves consideration.
“That doesn’t really matter to me right now,” Rowland said. “I’m glad that we won this, and I’ll enjoy this with my team. But (Miss Soccer) is nice, too.”
Josey Sobolewski and L.J. Wrightington joined Rowland on the All-Tournament team from South Oldham. Tucker called it a great team effort and credited the squad with “developing heart” during the postseason.
“This week was going to be a huge success, whether it ended with a championship or not,” Tucker said. “But this certainly eliminates any doubt.”
Jason Frakes can be reached at (502) 582-4046 and followed on Twitter @kyhighs.
• All-Tournament team: Stephanie Rowland, Josey Sobolewski, L.J. Wrightington (South Oldham); Madeline Reid, Sarah Riney, Grace Wright (Owensboro Catholic); Mandy Arnzen, Ellie Vandergriff (Notre Dame); Claire Fell, Cassie Amshoff (Sacred Heart); Shelby Huddleston (Russell); Sarah Wiggins (West Jessamine); Halle Cunningham (Madisonville-North Hopkins); Meredith McCowan (South Laurel).
• MVP: Stephanie Rowland (South Oldham).