CANNONSBURG Russell's girls soccer team hit the crossbar or the posts at Boyd County three times in the first 17 minutes on Saturday afternoon.

Once Lena Blanke found twine, the Lady Devils didn't stop.

Blanke scored three of her four goals in the first half and Russell tallied three times in as many minutes shortly before intermission to blow open a 7-0 victory over West Carter in the 16th Region Tournament quarterfinals.

"When she put that first one in," Lady Devils coach John Perry said of Blanke's 17th-minute tally, "I think we were still on pins and needles, and then to see her get involved and get one finally in the back of the net took a lot of pressure off and just opened the floodgates a little bit."

The Lady Comets lingered within 1-0 into the 36th minute, but Blanke scored again in the 36th and 37th minutes and Ava Quinn followed suit in the 38th.

Blanke added a fourth goal in the 61st minute, extending her season team-high total to 18. Freshmen Macy Vonderheide and Haley Addis recorded their first career goals in the 47th and 67th minutes, respectively.

Russell (3-8-2) had been 0-6-1 since a 2-2-1 start -- the Lady Devils earned a bye into the region tournament with their top seed in the three-team 63rd District Tournament.

"One of the comments the girls made after the game was, that game was fun," Perry said. "It's always fun to win, but when you can kinda play loose, take the pressure off yourself, it makes it a little bit more enjoyable."

The Lady Devils will seek to continue that mindset in Monday's region semifinals against Fleming County, to which they lost 5-2 on Sept. 26.

"From the jump, we felt like we had an edge on West Carter, so that helped mentally," Perry said. "It's getting the girls to believe that they can have that edge on anybody."

Russell keeper Raegan Williams wasn't tested often, but she dove to stop a West Carter cross in the 22nd minute when the margin was still one goal.

Lady Comets (3-10) goalie Riley Madden was busy -- in addition to Russell's seven goals, the Lady Devils also hit the woodwork seven times. She made impressive saves in the 28th and 31st minutes to keep the margin from being wider, but West Carter dropped to 0-6 all-time in the region tournament.

"The girls have started buying into playing physical and playing with some grit," said Lady Comets assistant Aaron Martin, filling in for head coach Emily Hammond. "We showed the last few games that we've instilled physicality and being competitive. ... We're young. We've gotta get healthy and play in the offseason and just get better."

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zklemme@dailyindependent.com

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