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Soccer seasons in review

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Knights and Lady Knights end season in regionals

By Nick Schrager

Coming within inches of accomplishing their goal of winning the district championship, the Marion County Lady Knights wrapped up their season of ups and downs with a record of 6-12-3. 

“We got as close as you could get,” Lady Knights Coach Devin Johnson said.

After starting the season with eight consecutive losses, Johnson said the team had a turning point when they came back from the Kentucky Bank Labor Day Tournament. They had been defeated by three teams that he thought they could beat.

“I don’t know what it was,” Johnson said. “It was the moment when everybody realized that losing is not fun, we gotta change something.”

And so they did. 

Johnson said the team began to pick up on what he and Assistant Coach Jonathan Engstrom had been telling them all season, which was that they had to play the way the coaches were telling them.

Their first victory was against the Hart County Lady Raiders, a game that ended 7-6.

By the end of the season, the Lady Knights scored five more wins. 

One of the easiest teams the Lady Knights went up against, according to Johnson, was the Wayne County Lady Cardinals, who the Lady Knights defeated 7-1.

“It’s nothing against their program. They’re new,” Johnson said.

Once the Lady Knights began to win, Johnson said he could tell individual players were improving, too.

“You could tell each and every game that everyone was getting better,” Johnson said. 

The Lady Knights will lose five seniors to graduation: forwards Miranda Bradshaw and Colleen Rakes, and midfielders Lindsey Browning, Madison Essex, and Bailey Spalding.

Johnson said he believes the Lady Knights have some talent that is ready to step up. He thinks junior midfielders Sara Tucker and Noel Obata, junior defender Casey Sowers  and sophomore defender Kristen Mattingly might just have what it takes to fill the void. 

 

Knights reach several goals

After coming home from the regionals, the Marion County Knights soccer team finished with a 16-7 record. That’s three-win improvement over last year’s record of 13-10.

Looking back at the season, the Knights faced several tough opponents, but Knights Coach Greg Conley said the John Hardin Bulldogs (19-4-1) and the Mercer County Titans (12-7-3) were particularly difficult.

 “I think that was a combination of Mercer County being very good, very fast, and us just not showing up to play,” Conley said.

The Titans defeated the Knights 5-1, and the Bulldogs won their match with the Knights, 4-3. 

The Bulldogs would go on to the finals of the Fifth Region tournament, but would lose to the Central Hardin Bruins in a 3-2 game. 

Though the Knights lost in first round of the regionals, Conley attributed their positive season to the seniors he had on the team. 

“(It’s) our seniors. I know I’ve said it a million times but that’s what it boils down to,” Conley said. 

He said the seniors have been the best he’s coached in the 22 years he’s been leading soccer teams.  

“We only have to tell them once what we need and what we expect of them,” Conley said. “I want to give a big shout out to my seniors because I’m really going to miss them.” 

With that said, the Knights will be sending off a total of nine seniors this year. They are midfielder Ryan Brady, forward Joey Costello, stopper Blake Higdon, midfielder Trevor Hood, forward Brandon Knopp, midfielder Aldo Perez, sweeper Alex Smith, midfielder Jake Smith, and forward Dylan Spalding.

“It’s going to be a different environment for me next year,” Conley said.

Despite this, he feels that while next year will be a challenge, he believes some of the returning players have the potential to help fill the empty slots.

Conley said he expects good things from Chase Lancaster, Curt Spalding, Oswaldo Cruz, Alan Guzman, Dalton Hammon, and Stephen Barlow. 

In the end, the Knights accomplished many of their goals. They were the top seed in the district, went undefeated in their district and undefeated on their home field.

One goal slipped through their grasp, however, going into the regional final.

“There’s where we stopped short,” Conley said.