FLATWOODS – Sophomore Faith Cross’s all-out hustle plays coupled with freshman Lily Holland’s fancy footwork and resulting goal prompted Rowan County assistant coach Andrew Zaheri to blurt a statement that may become a staple.
“Whatever you ate, Faith, we’re going to keep it the same!” Lady Vikings coach Alan Evans echoed Zaheri’s words. “Lily’s mom is in charge of pregame meals forever now!”
The Lady Vikings consumed boiled eggs, oat bran multi-grain muffins, plenty of fruit and lots of water, thanks to Justine Holland. They ate up possession time, too, on Thursday as they defeated Russell, 3-1. “They were applying pressure quickly and we weren’t reacting well to the speed,” said Lady Devils coach John Perry. “That’s what really affected us. With that pressure, they were able to basically control how the game was played.”
Natalie Peyton scored first with a strong 20-yard boot. The ball’s flight converged with the sun’s shine, causing problems for Russell goalkeeper Raegan Williams. Peyton, referred to as “the quarterback or point guard” of the team by Evans, put Rowan County ahead, 1-0, just eight minutes in.
“That was just a blinded spot,” Perry said, “and Raegan didn’t have a bead on it. Stuff happens. She was totally blinded by the sun.”
Just four minutes after Georgia Arrington narrowly missed — too high — on a chance to tie, Holland struck gold for a goal in the 24th minute. It was her first goal of the season.
“Lily scored in the Bluegrass Games (during the preseason), and we hoped it wasn’t a fluke,” Evans said. “She did a good job cutting in and taking that right foot back post. It was a nice shot.”
Promise Cross found the net for her team-best eighth goal in the 37th minute.
“She’s very exciting to watch,” Evans said. “It doesn’t matter if she’s playing basketball, soccer or what. If she’s playing hockey, I’d go watch her play.”
Arrington powered a corner kick into the net to avoid a shutout in the 75th minute. Perry wasn’t surprised to see the ball glance off keeper Maegan Gonzalez and into the goal.
“She tries to put it on the goal as much as possible, make the keeper make a decision,” Perry said. “See what they’ve got and make them stop you. She had a good attempt, put it right on the keeper.”
Rowan County (6-1-1) nearly recorded what would have been a fourth consecutive shutout. The Lady Vikings have won five in a row.
Evans is glad to have Zaheri accompanying him on the sideline again. In 2008, Zaheri assisted Evans as they guided the boys team to a region title. A longtime boys basketball assistant, Zaheri approached Evans upon finding out there was an opening on the soccer sideline.
“Hey Coach, let’s get the band back together again,” Evans remembered Zaheri saying. “He’s a presence out there. He’s a die-hard coach, no matter if he’s coaching basketball, soccer or croquet. He’s a coach at heart. He understands the fundamentals of the game. He knows what we’re trying to put in. He understands how to recruit the girls out of the hallways. We have some fun.”
Russell (3-5) saw its five-game winning streak over Rowan County reach an end. The Lady Devils concluded each of the last three Rowan County seasons.
“You have Russell, a great program with three (straight) region championships, so you circle this one on your schedule big and red and put a bunch of arrows on it,” Evans said. “The girls wrote ‘beat Russell’ on their hands today. Every drill we did was ‘beat Russell.’ We’re just pleased to be getting back to being competitive.”
The Lady Vikings will host Bluegrass United on Saturday at 2 p.m. Russell will visit Madison Central on Saturday at noon.