There was no shortage of offense Thursday as the Middlesboro Lady Jackets downed the Bell County Lady Cats 11-4 in 50th District soccer action.
Middlesboro got three goals each from senior Lauren Jackson, junior Amber Ray and sophomore Hannah Sorke in the match while the Lady Cats were led by senior Cierra Hatfield, who scored all four Bell goals.
“Any win is a positive and builds confidence and morale,” Lady Jacket coach Mark Greene said. “The win always feels good, no matter how you get there. 11-4 shows that they took this one home and earned it. They practiced what they’ve been taught and put their skills into play and it paid off for them.”
Middlesboro scored in the opening minutes as Ray found herself in a one-on-one situation against Lady Cat keeper Kelly Browning and sent a hard shot into the right corner of the net.
Soon after Sorke secured the ball off a rebound and muscled her way between a pair of Bell defenders and scored on a left-footed runner.
The Lady Jackets controlled the ball for most of the match, but Bell County was able to mount several counter-attacks with Hatfield and Olena Ramsey leading the charge with long runs into MHS territory. However, the Lady Cats weren’t able to dent the net in the first half against Lady Jacket keeper Kayci Howerton.
Defender Makayla Prater, switched up to a midfielder position and found her self deep in Bell territory after a corner kick. She won possession of the ball near the right corner of the goal box and sent on into the net to make it 3-0 near the midway point of the first half.
Lady Jacket sophomore Mariah Parsons sent a long shot in from the left wing and Middlesboro led it 4-0 at intermission.
One of the reasons for the offensive explosion was the teams played nine-on-nine because Bell was short two players.
“In rec leagues you often will play down like that. It creates more space and provides more opportunity for them to learn,” Greene added.”I think both teams were able to take advantage of that tonight.”
Jackson scored her first goal in the opening minutes of the second half, to ignite a scoring explosion from both teams.
Hatfield answered with a long run-out and beat Howerton to get the Lady Cats on the board less than a minute later. Sorke and Ray followed with goals less than two minutes apart and the Middlesboro lead was 7-1 with about 34 minutes to go in the match.
After Browning turned away several Lady Jacket shots, a strong goal kick from Rachel Lemons got through the Middlesboro defense and Hatfield ran the ball down deep in MHS territory and scored with 21 minute remaining to bring Bell within 7-2.
Sorke answered with a one-timer off a pretty feed from Ray in the goal box to make it 8-2, but Hatfield got loose again behind the Lady Jacket defense and put her third goal into the net with about 13 minutes to play.
Ray scored the next Middlesboro goal on penalty kick after a Lady Cat defender was called for a handball in the box and the lead was 9-3 with 10 minutes left in the match.
Jackson added two goals from close range around another goal from Hatfield and to close the scoring at 11-4.
Middlesboro (1-11-1) hosts Hazard Saturday at 2 p.m. while Bell County (0-8) plays at McCreary Central Monday.
“We’ll be re-evaluating our schedule for next season and looking to play more schools our same size. Going against some of these larger schools — for a small team like us or like Bell — is like playing a small college team,.” Greene said. “As the years go by hopefully we’ll be able to move back into that bigger arena. It just takes time to build it up.”