BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
CANNONSBURG Russell has so thoroughly dominated its girls soccer series with Boyd County, its 5-1 defeat of the Lady Lions on Tuesday was actually a more narrow margin of victory than the series average since 2001.
But this isn’t the same old Boyd County, and this latest installment wasn’t out of hand until Kylie Busick’s personal three-goal flurry in the first nine minutes of the second half lifted the Lady Devils.
Russell broke a 1-1 halftime tie when Busick tallied thrice. She first sent home Kynidee Allen’s cross on the back post 45 seconds into the second half. A little over a minute later, she spun to free herself and sent a cross that was deflected into the net.
Busick beat Boyd County’s goalie inside the left post in the 49th minute to finish off that stretch — which stretched a taut game into a comfortable one for Russell.
“Hey, listen, that’s what she’s capable of,” Lady Devils assistant coach Bobby Allen said. “Kylie’s a firecracker, and we try to put her in a position to make good plays, make smart decisions, and tonight she was all out.”
Russell dominated possession most of the first half as the Lady Lions were content to drop nearly everyone — save Graci Borders — deep into their own defensive third. The strategy worked initially for Boyd County, which broke on top in the 32nd minute when Borders converted a long run from nearly midfield into the Lady Lions’ first lead on Russell that coach Jason Rosen could remember.
“First half was great,” Rosen said. “We executed our game plan, were very defensive- minded, sending balls up. Graci Borders is just an animal up there who can go chase balls down and make things happen.”
The Lady Devils equalized less than a minute later, though, when Callen Johnson knocked home Abby Keeton’s assist. It stayed 1-1 until Busick’s detonation.
“They switched the defense up a little bit and loaded the box a little bit, which we expect against certain teams,” Allen said of Boyd County. “So we just had to find a way to pick it apart and unlock it somehow, and we eventually did.”
Allen was filling in as skipper for Russell head coach John Perry, who was serving the first of a three-game suspension for drawing a red card Saturday against Dixie Heights. Allen said his coaching style was to be “positive and constructive.”
It worked at halftime, said Busick.
“I think it was just Bobby just talking to us,” she said of settling at intermission. “It took a while for us to get it going, but once he talked to us, we were like, we got this.
“We possessed well, and we just showed what we could do when we played our game.”
Lady Lions keeper Ashton Rankin stymied Busick’s bid for a fourth goal with a save in the 72nd minute. But six minutes later, Busick won a Boyd County goal kick to set up Kynidee Allen for the finishing touch two minutes from full time.
That was another example of Busick making something happen by “working my butt off,” as she put it.
Bobby Allen added that Kynidee Allen, Johnson, Georgia Arrington and Taylor Stamper provide a “pretty good attacking offense.”
Russell (6-6) hadn’t been under .500 this late in the season since 2011. But the Lady Devils’ rigorous non-region schedule has prepared them for games such as these against an improved Boyd County side, said Busick.
“Perry put better, bigger teams (on the schedule) so we can get ready for the districts and region and see if we can go further,” Busick said.
The Lady Devils improved to 3-0 in 63rd District seeding games, locking up the district tournament’s top seed and a berth to the district finals and the 16th Region Tournament.
Boyd County (7-4-2, 2-2 district seeding) will meet Ashland in the district tournament semifinals.
Russell won its 24th straight match against district competition and at least its 26th straight against the Lady Lions, with an average margin of 5.3 goals a pop coming into Tuesday.