Bailee Locke has become the go-to scoring outlet for the Mercy Academy girls soccer team.
Two nights after erupting for six goals in a quarterfinal win against Pleasure Ridge Park, the Mercy junior striker scored the only goal in the host Jaguars’ 1-0 victory Wednesday night over the North Bullitt Lady Eagles in the Sixth Region girls soccer tournament’s early semifinal at Evans Park.
For Locke, Wednesday’s goal was better than six, since the strike sent the Jaguars into Saturday’s region final at 6 p.m.. After all, Mercy, the region’s four-time defending champion, will be playing for its fifth-straight state tournament appearance.
“It was definitely the one (goal), but it wasn’t just my effort. It was completely a team effort,” said Locke, who has 17 goals this year. “Everyone came together and did what we had to do to put one in the back of the net and that’s what we did.”
The 24th District champion Jaguars (10-11-2) were thrown for a loop early when senior center back Natali Francis suffered a head injury during a collision. After Francis’ departure, Mercy struggled to find its shape.
“We had to pick each other up and note that she would be mad if we worried about her. We had to play for her and just keep going,” said Locke, who coincidentally didn’t finish the game, either, after suffering a right calf cramp in the final five minutes.
Mercy coach Tim Nowak said he could tell the Jaguars were forcing things in the early going and the loss of Francis further complicated matters.
“We were a little tight for this game honestly and it was a personality from this team that I had yet to see,” Nowak said. “I think they’re a great team and they love each other very much, but when one of their teammates — and a leader on this team — went down, they were very concerned about her.”
Locke said she was growing a bit concerned after getting stonewalled several times by North Bullitt junior goalie Delayna Holman. Of Holman’s eight saves, four came at Locke’s expense — including just 19 seconds before Locke broke through.
After that save, North Bullitt was unable to get the ball out of its defensive end. An alert Londyn Bivens got to the ball and nudged it over to her left to Locke, who sidestepped a defender before shooting.
“She just played it over and I took a touch around the girl and put it in the net,” Locke said.
North Bullitt finishes the season 13-8-1. The Lady Eagles’ win total is second in the 12-team only to Bullitt East, who they beat on the road Aug. 29.
The 23rd District champion Lady Eagles, who have advanced to the region semis three consecutive years, have won a combined 28 games the past two seasons and are scheduled to graduate just 5-of-26 players.
“We’ve been competing really well and we’re a really young team, so there’s a lot to look forward to in the next year or two,” North Bullitt coach Amber Mink said. “Overall, I’m extremely happy with this season. I knew that we definitely had a chance in this game and I would have loved to have had it.”