It’s been an uphill battle for Charity Collins and her Ashland teammates on the soccer field this season.
Both took positive steps Monday night.
Collins, limited by a high ankle sprain and bone bruise most of the season, displayed better mobility in the 63rd District Tournament opener.
Last year’s second team All-State selection scored a hat trick as the LadyCats defeated Boyd County 3-1 to earn a spot in tonight’s district championship game opposite top-seeded Russell.
“It feels great, like old times,” Collins said of Ashland’s return to another district final. “It’s tournament season. I think tonight this was a much better team than what we have been. We totally played together, and it worked.”
After staking Ashland to a 1-0 halftime lead, Collins followed up with two goals early in the second half to make it 3-0 on Boyd County’s field.
Afterwards, she rated the ankle recovery at 90 percent.
“It’s not completely there, but betting getter,” Collins said.
The midfielder who racked up 59 goals in her first two high schools seasons got hurt in Ashland’s fourth game on Aug. 29 against Huntington St. Joseph.
“This is the first game she’s played since the injury that Charity didn’t tape her ankle.” LadyCats coach E.B. Lowman said. “She moves better without the tape.”
Ashland defeated Boyd County for the third time this season with just the kind of overall performance that Lowman had in mind.
Defensively, sophomore Jenna Cook made two non-goalkeeper saves, the second one coming after freshman goalkeeper Jamie Downey got tangled up with a Boyd County player several yards away from the goal.
“Jenna was sweeping tonight and did a nice job,” Lowman said. “She’s made those kind of saves all year. As far as working as a team, I think we’re playing well right now.”
Ashland improved to 7-11-2 after 11 consecutive seasons with at least 11 wins.
“This year’s been a struggle for us, almost like a perfect storm,” said Lowman, the state’s No. 2 all-time winningest coach. “We were not able to go to camp, there have been a lot of injuries, about half the team is freshmen, and we struggled with leadership. When you shake that up, it’s kind of hard.”
Especially against a schedule stocked with challenges.
“Seven games we lost by one goal or tied, so I’m not sure the seven wins is representative of how we have played,” Lowman said.
Ten minutes into the second half, Collins swiped the ball from a Boyd County defender and set herself before drilling the ball into the net for a 2-0 lead. Less than two minutes later, Collins connected again after teammates Emily Bond and Tiffany Kiwabonga applied pressure with some give-and-gos.
Boyd County responded by putting together several attacks down the stretch, including junior Cydney Thompson’s goal in the 68th minute.
“They never quit,” said Boyd County coach Allen Boggs, whose starting lineup contained eight seniors. “It was tough on them, being their last game.”
Senior goalkeeper Tatum Brumfield made 10 saves, including a few diving stops.
Lowman praised the Lady Lions’ effort.
“Boyd County played tough,” he said. “I thought they really came to play. They prepared for us. Congrats to them for turning it up.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.