Nobody can say Russell’s girls soccer team isn’t battle-tested for postseason play.
Bishop Brossart, No. 11 in the state rankings, pulled away in the second half Saturday afternoon to beat the Lady Devils 4-0 on the final day of the regular season.
All five of Russell’s losses this season came in the past five weeks against state-ranked teams from Kentucky or West Virginia. Russell also has several notable wins during that span.
“It’s been a tough schedule, no doubt about it,” Lady Devils coach Joe Grizzle said. “That’s what we wanted, to get us as ready as possible.”
Russell (14-5-1) will go for the 63rd District title Tuesday at 7 p.m. against the winner of Monday’s Ashland-Boyd County match.
Grizzle’s squad trailed 1-0 at halftime Saturday while playing Bishop Brossart on practically even terms.
“They are a real good team, very fast,” Grizzle said. “I thought we played real well the first half.”
However, the Lady Mustangs from Alexandria turned it up in the second half with three goals and registered their fifth consecutive shutout.
Forward Morgan Verst had the ball on the right wing and slid a pass across to Cori Ziegler, who finished off the play for a 2-0 lead with just over four minutes elapsed in the second half.
“When they got that second goal in, it seemed to take a lot out of us,” Grizzle said. “We have to put two halves together. We can’t expect to play one half and win the game against a team of this caliber.”
Ziegler said Bishop Brossart came out for the second half determined not to be outmuscled by Russell any longer.
“They are a good team,” Ziegler said. “After the first half, we realized we needed to pick it up. Russell was physical and we were not physical enough. We started being more aggressive and connected as a team.”
After Ziegler’s goal, Bishop Brossart remained on the offensive in building the lead to 4-0 on goals from Abby Stadtmiller and Meg Dierig. The Lady Mustangs outshot Russell 12-4 in the second half, with some of the Lady Devils’ attempts coming in the closing minutes.
Bishop Brossart assistant Ken Gough filled in for his son, Brad, the team’s head coach who remained at home Saturday as wife Maggie was due to deliver a baby.
“We knew coming over here this morning it would be a good test,” Ken Gough said. “Russell was more physical than we were in the first half. “We decided we needed to be tougher, and that’s how we played the rest of the way.”
The Lady Mustangs have not yielded a goal since Sept. 18 — including a 1-0 win over No. 13 Campbell County — and allowed just nine all season. Not bad for a team that graduated three of its four starting defenders.
The lone returner from that group, Samantha Cetrulo, turned in another strong effort Saturday despite continuing to play with an ankle problem.
“She’s the soul of our team, I would say,” Ziegler put it. “Sam holds us together through the back.”
Overall, Bishop Brossart starts seven seniors. Another, center striker Madison Linebach, is out with mono but hopes to return soon.
“We have dynamite seniors,” Gough said. “It’s really a great group.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at email@example.com or (606) 326-2671.