When John Cook coached Ashland Middle School girls soccer, he wrote a synopsis on each player for varsity coach E.B. Lowman.
The one on now-senior Abby Huff declared: “She’s a scorer.”
Now that seems like an understatement.
One of Kentucky’s top goal producers the past two seasons with 97 during that span, Huff is the catalyst behind the LadyCats’ push to their first unbeaten regular season. Ashland added its first district title since 2012, beating Boyd County 3-1 in the final on Wednesday.
“It felt good to win one,” Huff said. “We’ve worked our butts off for this.”
Ashland enters region play this week in Morehead with a 16-0-2 record.
“They know they’re undefeated, but they don’t mention it,” said Cook, who continues to enjoy the ride in his first year as head coach after taking over for the retired Lowman. “It’s a special bunch of girls. All six seniors start and contribute in huge ways.”
For opponents, a top priority is keeping close track of Ashland’s prolific attacker. Huff, a 5-foot-7 forward, averages 2.7 goals per game.
“At least one person marks her, sometimes it’s two,” Cook said. “Abby’s so physically strong with her lower body and that helps with the contact. She’s generally sore when the game’s over, but has fought through it.”
Cook pointed to Ashland’s emphasis on off-season conditioning — a carryover from Lowman — as a key factor.
Huff is facing more defensive attention this year than ever.
“I’ve kind of learned to deal with it, so that doesn’t really bother me,” Huff said Thursday evening as the LadyCats worked out on Marshall University’s turf in preparation for the artificial surface at Rowan County. “It doesn’t really bother me. When teams do that, it leaves more space for other players and chances for them. We have people that can cross it and finish.”
Like in the recent district championship. Kaitlin McLain’s two second-half goals off passes from Reilly McLain and Sydney Sorrell enabled Ashland to overcome a 1-0 deficit. Jess Brown added a late score goal to seal it for the LadyCats.
The McLain twins now own 30 goals and 20 assists between them. Brown and Sorrell have accounted for another 16 goals and 15 setups.
Huff’s twin sister, Clare, anchors the defense after overcoming surgeries on both knees.
“She’s aggressive and never scared,” Abby said. “Clare has a great understanding of how to play.”
A third set of twins — juniors Casey and Callie Jackson — play key roles along the midfield and defensive lines. Meanwhile, sophomore Mikayla Martin filled a large void at goalkeeper.
“The whole team works together,” Abby Huff said. “We get along pretty well.”
Last year, Huff received second team All-State honors after putting in 48 goals. For an encore, she’s scored 49 times, accompanied by a bump up to 14 assists in 2019.
“The thing I’ve seen with Abby this year is her maturation,” Cook said. “She’s a smart kid, and a humble kid to be as good as she is. She’s very unselfish, sometimes to a fault.”
Huff stands six goals away from the school career record of 153, set by Sarah Lowman from 1996-99.
“I really hope I get it,” Huff said. “I know she was a great player.”
Cook has coached Huff on the soccer field in some fashion since sixth grade. He doesn’t recall a specific favorite goal.
“I just remember a couple times Abby being in the box, inside the 18 or 6, with people being up in her back,” he said. “She makes a quick turn and gets the shot off.”
“Her ball skills are fantastic,” Cook continued. “She’s deceptively quick and will change pace. I haven’t run across anybody better than Abby that we’ve played all season.”
Huff posted hat tricks in both matchups with Russell this year as Ashland ended its rival’s recent domination of the series.
Huff got extra inspiration for her senior season after following the U.S. women’s team’s march to the World Cup title.
“Watched every game,’’ Huff said of trips with teammates to Buffalo Wild Wings.
Her favorite player?
“Megan Rapinoe,” Huff answered without hesitation. “She’s really good.”
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