MOREHEAD East Carter entered the 16th Region Tournament without a loss this year on the pitch.
Coach Tyler Walker wants his team to keep that winning edge now that every match they play could be their last.
The Raiders took care of business on Saturday night against Rowan County. Seven different players found the scoring column against the Vikings in a 10-0 victory.
Six teams make up the region bracket, which means that one district winner will play in the quarterfinal round, while the other two receive a bye.
Walker relished the fact that his team will have extra time on the turf at Paul Ousley Stadium before they tangle with defending region champion, Russell, in Tuesday’s first semifinal at 6.
“Honestly, I think the first game is fine,” Walker said. “It gets you going, and it gets your feet moving. For us, I was glad to have it this year. We are young and it can settle our nerves a little bit. It can be hard, especially since we are going to play Russell on Tuesday, to play top team with the first game you play.”
Ellie Thomas secured another postseason hat trick for East Carter. Darian Wallace recorded two early goals. Kinsley Rutledge and Canyessee Kiser each supplied tallies in the first half.
Avery Hall made one final charge in the closing seconds before halftime. With a defender on her hip, she dribbled the ball into the box. She slammed on the brakes and guided a shot inside the near post to give the Raiders an 8-0 halftime lead.
“We knew East Carter would be a strong team and be tough to beat,” Rowan County coach Kayla Sloan said. “I feel like we started really strong. Our girls were working together. It’s hard when you get a couple of goals scored on you. Your heads drop and it changes how things are. Obviously not the outcome that we wanted, but I’m proud of how the girls played.”
Thomas slipped a ball past keeper in the 6th minute before the two collided in the box. It started the initial scoring surge for East Carter (16-1-2). Rutledge’s goal concluded a spurt of five goals in the first 20 minutes of the match.
“We wanted to start fast and play fast the whole 80 minutes,” Walker said. “At the beginning of the year, it took us 15 to 20 minutes to get into games. It hurt us sometimes. We wanted to keep our foot on the pedal from the very start.”
The Raiders came out swinging in the second half. Four minutes had elapsed when East Carter started to apply the pressure again. A Raiders’ shot on goal could not be cleared by the Rowan County keeper. The bouncing ball found the foot of Bailey Withrow, who guided it into the net.
In the 45th minute, the Vikings were whistled for a foul in the box, which resulted in a penalty kick. Rubie Johnson’s number was called. She put the ball on the mark and blasted it into the back of the net to end the match.
“I love the fact that we spread the scoring around,” Walker said, “because the defenders for the other team can’t focus on one or two of my players. At any point, anybody can score a couple of goals and I think they makes us more dangerous.”
After advancing to the region tournament, Rowan County (5-13) allowed its seniors to play at least one more match on the home field.
“As a coach, I am proud to represent Rowan County in any capacity,” Sloan said. “I am a graduate myself. To make it to the region on our home turf, it gives these seniors one last match here. There is some pride that goes along with that. We could close it out on our home field, representing the school we love.”
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