BY ROCKY STANLEY
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
Russell's Kylie Busick controls the ball as Johnson Central's Konstance McCarty applies pressure on Thursday. The Lady Devils survived, 5-4.
Russell's Taylor Stamper connects on a header as Johnson Central's Alyssa Pack defends on Thursday.
PHOTOS BY MARTY CONLEY | FOR THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS Russell girls soccer coach John Perry had high praise for his team’s passing and teamwork Thursday night.
At the same time, Perry was relieved to come away with a ‘W’ against perennial 15th Region contender Johnson Central at Russell Soccer Complex.
The Lady Devils’ multi-dimensional attack had trouble finishing early, then threatened to make it a blowout that turned into a nail-biter instead. Johnson Central staged a late change that came up short, 5-4.
Kynidee Allen’s second long-range goal of the night gave Russell a 5-1 cushion with 12:37 remaining. However, Johnson Central’s three-goal flurry in a span of three minutes made it 5-4 with just under three minutes remaining. The Lady Eagles had a corner kick with a minute left but couldn’t convert.
“To Johnson Central’s credit, they didn’t give up,” Perry said. “We relaxed a little. Thankfully, we were still able to control the ball and control the game. But it got a little touch-and-go.”
Russell, 5-5 against a challenging schedule, advanced the ball skillfully from the outset despite a soggy field.
“One of our strengths is being able to move and play the ball well,” Perry said. “Sometimes, we get too deep and maybe pass the ball one too many times. That’s just the unselfish nature of this team.”
Though dominating possession and outshooting Johnson Central by a wide margin in the first half, the Lady Devils only had a 1-1 tie to show for it.
The floodgates opened after intermission. Less than a minute expired before Allen drilled a shot that bounced off the goalkeeper’s hands. Georgia Arrington put back the rebound. Shortly after, Arrington lofted a corner kick that Taylor Stamper headed into the goal from near the back post.
Johnson Central tried to turn the momentum as senior star Molly Davis got ahead of Russell defenders with the ball. Russell’s Callie Jackson responded by coming out of goal to challenge Davis and sticking out a leg to block her shot.
After that, Russell was back on the offensive. Allen fired in a laser from about 25 yards out and connected again — off a Stamper assist — to extend the margin to four goals.
“Russell’s very good and deserves props,” said first-year Lady Eagles head coach Brian Johnson. “They are always one of the better teams in eastern Kentucky. They have a lot of club players and Kynidee Allen is Kynidee Allen. As a team, they pass well, make you chase the ball and wear you down.”
Johnson Central (7-3) had enough energy to stage the comeback despite missing three starters. Bekah Preston scored off a Davis assist to ignite the Lady Eagles’ three-goal surge. Davis followed with her second goal of the night and 145th of her career, then freshman Lauren Johnson connected with 2:58 to go.
“Molly and Bekah are really good players,” Perry said. “You always have to be aware of where they are.” Abby Keeton scored Russell’s first goal of an assist from Stamper, who also supplied a key header on the defensive end. “Taylor did a lot of good things,” Perry said. “She’s a big target offensively, with good touch, and can get position defensively. She’s getting more involved (this season).”
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