BY ZACK KLEMME
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
LLOYD Kynidee Allen knows what it feels like not to go to the state tournament, and to her, that hurt worse than a torn labrum and AC separation.
So, despite aggravating her bum shoulder early in the 16th Region Tournament finals on Thursday night, Russell’s senior leading scorer wasn’t about to risk sitting and watching.
“I told myself this could be my last game as a senior, and at that time we were down 1- 0,” Allen said, sporting a sling after the game. “And I told my coaches, ‘Listen, I’m going back in this game no matter what the level of pain in my shoulder is.’”
Allen converted the game-tying penalty kick in the 53rd minute and assisted on another goal later as the Lady Devils rallied past Ashland, 3-1, to three-peat as region titlist at Greenup County.
The LadyCats had every intention of extending the career of coach E.B. Lowman, their 26thyear coach who has said he plans to retire after this season. And Ashland looked poised to do it through a half after Chloe Vanhorn’s strike from distance inside the far post in the 35th minute.
It was the third time in four Russell-Ashland matches this season that the LadyCats scored first.
“It’s kinda been the story of the whole season, coming back from a deficit,” Lady Devils coach John Perry said. “At halftime, that’s what we were talking about. We were mentally prepared for that. The girls were a little frantic, but once we got them calmed down and started playing our brand, everything fell into place.”
Not only that, but Allen was struggling physically. At the end of a run into the Ashland box in the 16th minute, she went down hard and tweaked an injury she’s battled since her sophomore year. Allen had to come off the field with her right arm all but immobilized.
“I was panicked,” Perry said. “When she went down, I threw my Gatorade bottle to the ground (and took off). I thought, here we go. It’s kind of the undertone of the season: if something could happen, it’s gonna happen. We fought through it.”
Allen re-entered the game 12 minutes later. She was on the field when Russell was awarded a penalty kick in the 53rd minute and coolly booted it to the right of the Ashland goalkeeper to tie the match.
“PKs are what I like to call my specialty,” Allen said. “I work on them all the time with my dad (Bobby, a former Russell assistant who announced the game for MyTownTV). I just told myself, if we want to be put on the board and tie this and at least have a chance to come back, I gotta make this.”
She did, scoring her 23rd goal of the season, and that unleashed Russell’s quick-strike offense.
The Lady Devils scored twice more in the next seven minutes. Kylie Busick played the ball across the goal mouth for Lena Blanke to hammer home in the 56th minute, and in the 60th, Georgia Arrington was near-post on Allen’s corner kick and bodied the loose ball across the goal line.
Ashland didn’t get much going offensively after that, except when Abby Huff put a shot on frame in the 69th minute that Russell goalie Mercedes Maupin dove to erase.
Russell won its 12th region tournament title and its fifth in the last six years. The lone exception during that run was in 2015, when the Lady Devils lost in the region semifinals. Russell’s six seniors were freshmen that season.
The Lady Devils (13-4-1) travel to 15th Region champion Lawrence County on Monday for the Semi-State 8 round.
Ashland (12-9-3) gave a much better accounting of itself on Thursday than in the 63rd District Tournament finals eight days earlier, when Russell whitewashed the LadyCats, 5-0.
“Russell’s a good team, an excellent team. Congratulations to them and their coaches,” Lowman said. “They deserve to do as well as they did. On the other hand, this is a game that we deserved to win just as much as they did. “I couldn’t be prouder of a group of kids than I am of these kids. They focused at the end. They turned the corner at the right time. They peaked. Everybody wrote us off except for us. We didn’t write us off, and I think it bore out.”
Lowman is the only person who’s ever coached Ashland’s girls soccer team. If in fact he does step down as planned, Lowman will do so as the second-winningest active coach in the state and third overall, with a career mark of 309-213-40.
Lowman had to swallow his emotion when asked about his team’s effort in his final game.
“There was a saying, I used it for my seniors on their senior night,” Lowman said before another long pause. “‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’ That’s where I can finish.
“Satisfied, yeah. We got most of what I wanted. We played for championships; that’s always a goal. Wanted to win the region and go to State one more time. Didn’t happen. That’s the way it goes. But as far as my career, my coaching career, I’m proud of every kid that played for me, and I’m proud to have been a part of establishing a tradition for Ashland, and I’m comfortable. I’m at peace with it.”
When Lowman saw Allen at the touch line at midfield waiting to check back in after her injury, he came to meet her and check on her.
“I love E.B. Lowman,” Allen said. “He’s honestly like my coach, even though he’s not. I swear he’d (take) a bullet for me, and I would do the same for him and his family.”
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