The Middlesboro Lady Jackets are the 5oth District soccer champions for the second straight season after Tuesday’s 9-0 win over Bell County in the title match.
Freshman forward Sarah Slusher scored five goals to lead the Lady Jackets and was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
She scored three goals in the first half as Middlesboro built a 4-0 lead by intermission and never looked back.
“Sarah has been in a little bit of a slump over the last few games. I’ve talked to her about not over-thinking everything and trying too hard. I’ve been trying to get her to relax more and just let the game flow and she did that more tonight,” Lady Jacket coach Jeff Sorke said. “She passed the ball better, her shots were much better it was a really a good performance and worthy of the MVP no doubt.
“Five goals speaks for itself and she probably could have had more, she missed a couple just over the bar.”
The Lady Jackets controlled the ball for most of the match. They also got two goals from senior Amber Ray and one each from freshman Avery Miracle and junior Courtney Hall. Ray, Katlyn Barnwell, Olivia Carnes and Trixie Capps had assists in the win.
The Lady Cats never let up and challenged just about every shot that Middlesboro put up. Brooklyn Stanley and Amber Baker were both able to make long runs on the counter attack. But Lady Jacket defender Tori Lowrance had a strong game as she and her mates helped keep those opportunities from turning into goals.
MHS keeper Jade Robertson only had to make two saves in the shutout.
“We have improved so much and I’m so excited for next year because these girls put their heart into it. They just fight to stay in the game and that takes a lot of heart,” Bell coach Brandy Sweat said. “Just about everybody got hurt in this one, we’re going home in ice.
“Callie Mason, what a player. She plays through anything. Amber Baker has been a key player for us this year on striker. I’m going to miss my seniors but I’m really proud of underclassmen. Most of them had never played before this season and they’ve really stepped up.”
Joining Slusher on the All-Tournament team from Middlesboro were Amber Ray, Avery Miracle, Courtney Hall, Tori Lowrance and Jade Robertson.
Representing Bell County on the All-Tournament team were Rachel Lemons, Brooklyn Stanley, Kelly Cupp and Alexis Williams.
Bell County (0-12) and Middlesboro (4-10-2) both advance to next week’s 13th Region Tournament at South Laurel.
“We took care of business in this one more so than in the other two games (against Bell). We were able to play everybody and I was impressed by our reserves, they played as well as if not better than our starters,” Sorke said. “They didn’t score a whole lot, but they really moved the ball well, passed well and communicated. Overall it was a good performance, you win by this kind of score and you’ve got to be happy. I hope it prepares us for the regionals next week.”