BY RAY SCHAEFER
FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS Russell’s girls soccer team was maybe a touch ticked.
The two-time defending 16th Region champion Lady Devils were nervous, too. They overcame both emotions Wednesday and handed visiting Prestonsburg a 4-2 defeat at Russell Soccer Complex.
Senior forward Taylor Stamper led Russell with a goal and two assists.
“I fell like all of us were a little bit nervous before the game,” Stamper said.
The Lady Devils (1-0) were upset because they were supposed to open their season
Aug. 15 at home against Montgomery County — a contest Russell coach John Perry said the Indians canceled.
“I was a little upset,” Perry said. “We wanted to play; we scheduled that game last October.”
Russell nonetheless combined history (junior Hannah Howell scored her first high school goal), perseverance through injury (senior Kynidee Allen has separated her right shoulder more times than she can count, and she plays with a brace now), two longtime friends teaming up for a goal — and one really good save from Lady Devil goalkeeper Mercedes Maupin.
The history came in the 19th minute when Howell beat Prestonsburg goalkeeper Chelsea Samons to get Russell started from an early deficit. Stamper clanked a shot off the left post and to Howell, who tapped in the rebound from less than six yards away.
Ask Stamper whether scoring or serving is nicer, and she has a quick answer.
“If I'm being honest, assists,” she said. “I feel like helping my team out more.”
Russell's pregame fretfulness was understandable, too, because despite dominating the outside passing lanes and taking three shots at Samons, Prestonsburg took a 2-0 lead after 13 minutes.
“Well, we wanted to come out and press early, and I felt like we could get after 'em early,” Prestonsburg coach Paul Burchett said. “ … I do think fatigue set in with us with the pressure we played early in the first half.
“ … (Russell) definitely got control on us over the last 20 minutes and really put it on us.”
Nobody thought Prestonsburg, the defending 15th Region champions, would be an easy win — especially when the Lady Blackcats' (2-1) Elizabeth Burchett beat Maupin in the 11th minute. And absolutely not when a Russell defender deflected Jillian Kidd's shot into the net for an own-goal two minutes later. Neither Stamper nor Perry was sure how Stamper's low line drive from about 25 yards away in the 27th minute sneaked past Samons.
“It did,” was all Stamper said.
In the 61st minute, Maupin confronted Prestonsburg's Kadynce Hackworth about 18 yards from the goal. She thought Hackworth would shoot to Maupin's left.
“(Hackworth) decides to shoot it right,” Maupin said. “My first instinct was just to put my hand up, and from my technique that I've learned, just drop the ball down, and that's exactly what happened.”
Georgia Arrington's goal in the 63rd minute put Russell ahead to stay.
Best friends Stamper and Allen ended the scoring in the 71st minute. It was a 2-on-1 fast break that Russell girls basketball coach Mandy Layne might have enjoyed — Allen served a right-to-left pass to Stamper, who sent it back to Allen for the goal a few seconds later.
“We always know where we are on the field,” Allen said.