ASHLAND Russell girls soccer coach John Perry believes freshman Ava Quinn will keep making an impact on the pitch for seasons to come.
It only took her 14 minutes to do just that in Lady Devils’ district tilt against Ashland on Tuesday. Quinn corralled a long pass ahead, collected and booted the ball past the keeper. She did the same to close out the first half and ignited a second-half scoring surge. It propelled Russell to a 6-4 win at the Ashland Athletic Complex.
Perry said it’s been exciting to watch as Quinn has gelled with the upperclassmen.
“I always tell her, show teams what they can look forward to the next four years,” Perry said. “She is going to be a heck of a player. She is going to be one to remember.”
The LadyCats have a promising young scorer on their hands as well. Wearing the same number as former goal machine Abby Huff, Milei Baker recorded a hat trick in the second half alone and ended with four tallies in the match.
Ashland coach John Cook said the freshman will set her own standard as a dependable scorer.
“She is one of the best freshman players that I’ve seen in years and years,” Cook said. “We honestly made her take that uniform for that reason. She really put us on her back tonight. She just has that will to win. Every game I can see her grow.”
Baker found an opening on the left side of the net to knot the game at 1-1 in the 25th minute. Cook felt the LadyCats had scoring opportunities in the opening half but couldn’t capitalize.
“We played Lawrence County on Saturday and we started really quickly,” Cook said. “We got four goals on them early. Tonight, we could see the flurry at the start. We had all kinds of chances, but we just didn’t finish. Russell is a great team and we knew they were going to bring it. … Hats off to them. They were prepared and had a great game.”
Russell (2-2-1) has faced a tough slate to prepare for early district seeding matchups. The Lady Devils secured a bye in the district tournament and a region entry with Tuesday’s win.
“There is still improvement that we need to do, but locking it up early is what we wanted to accomplish,” Perry said. “That’s what we did.”
“We have put it into perspective,” he added. “We took our lumps against Frederick Douglass. We told the girls you have to prepare like it could be your last because in this environment it honestly could. We try to take every preparation seriously no matter who we are playing.”
Baker slipped a shot into the short side on the goal to close the Ashland (4-2) deficit to one midway through the second half. The score remained the same until Lena Blanke went to work.
The senior found an opening in the front of the net and guided an Isabela Barker pass into the net with 15 minutes remaining. The duo hooked up again six minutes later. A Barker cross connected with Blanke inside the box and she found the back of the net.
Blanke completed the hat trick and followed with another quick goal. Barker added a first-half score.
“It’s their speed,” Cook said of Russell. “They have three or four players there that can really burn. They have some good defenders that know how to take the ball, turn it outside and get it back up to their midfielders to start their attack. … You have to be focused and pay attention. They caught us a couple of times asleep.”
After Blanke increased her season goal total to nine, Baker connected once more and now has eight tallies this year.
“We finally settled down, especially in the first half,” Perry said, “and finally shook off those district jitters. We started playing our game. Ashland plays a different game than we do. I’ve told them over and over, if we play our game, we can beat anybody in the region.
“When we had those stretches and started putting the ball in the back of the net, we were doing what we do best. It showed.”
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