Ashland’s girls soccer team has embraced the adage that it’s not how you start, but how you finish that counts.
After an up-and-down season, the LadyCats returned to the region championship game for the seventh time in eight years with a 2-1 win over Rowan County on Tuesday night at Boyd County High School.
Ashland is seeing positive results from coach E.B. Lowman’s late-season lineup shifts, a renewed emphasis on passing, and having top offensive threat Charity Collins back to speed from a leg injury.
Collins scored both goals and the LadyCats withstood a Rowan County comeback down the stretch.
“It’s taken us a while to get to this point, but we’re playing the right style, the right way,” Lowman said. “Our goal every year is to play for championships. We’re happy to be back in this position again.”
The LadyCats will go up against Russell on Thursday at 7 p.m. for the title. The Lady Devils defeated East Carter 2-1 in the first semifinal.
Ashland improved to 9-12-2 and made amends for a 1-0 loss at Rowan County two weeks ago.
“That was a big contest for us,” Lowman said. “Congratulations to Rowan. They played well and brought it to us. Charity had a couple of rips in the first half and their keeper couldn’t get to the ball.”
Collins, who has seven goals in two region tournament games, struck in the 22nd and 23rd minutes to stake Ashland to a 2-0 halftime lead. The junior midfielder fired in a shot from the right wing, then took a pass from Aidan Young and sprinted just ahead of a defender to finish off her second goal.
“We had two mistakes in the back third and Ashland capitalized on both,” Rowan County coach Randy Wallace said. “(Collins) is a very good player, and Young played some really nice balls to her.”
Later in the first half, Collins sent a shot caroming off the crossbar after receiving a pass from Young.
The LadyCats made their two-goal lead stand up for most of the second half until Rowan County rallied.
“E.B. is a tremendous coach,” Wallace said. “He always has his teams ready. We’ve had some good battles against each other over the years.”
Rowan County (14-7-1) broke through for a goal on Hannah Bandura’s penalty kick with 5 1/2 minutes remaining after Ashland was whistled for a handball in the box.
But the Lady Vikings had several other second-half scoring opportunities go by the wayside.
“This was not one of our better games,” Wallace said. “At time we played well, but overall we didn’t get the ball in the net. We were a little high, a little wide or a little something.”
ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2671.