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BARDSTOWN - Rallying from an early deficit with five goals over the last 50 minutes of play, the Bullitt East Lady Chargers advanced on Monday to the semi-finals of the Girls’ Ninth District Soccer Tournament with a 5-1 victory over North Bullitt.
During the regular season, Bullitt East had turned back the Lady Eagles 4-1, but North Bullitt standout Halee Heltsley did not play in that game due to an illness. In the rematch Monday at Nelson County, Heltsley got a goal in the first 10 minutes of action, her 100th goal playing for the Lady Eagles, and it appeared that it would be a match to the end.
North Bullitt managed to keep the ball away from Bullitt East’s top scorers until less than three minutes remained in the first half. At that point, junior Jessi Hottois was brought down in the box and her penalty kick knotted the score at 1-1.
Less than a minute later, Heltsley was fouled at the other end of the field. This time her penalty kick sailed high over the crossbar.
Bullitt East pushed forward early in the second half and put pressure on the North Bullitt goal. Less than two minutes into the half, Lexi Higginbotham found an opening and her shot along the ground found the back of the goal.
It all fell apart for the Lady Eagles moments later when Heltsley, who has committed to play at Mississippi State next season, went down awkwardly on the offensive end. She fell on her left wrist and stayed down. She was taken to the hospital with what North Bullitt head coach Ryan Bringhurst had no doubt was a broken wrist.
Over the final 30 minutes of play, Bullitt East added two goals by Jessica Carver and then ended the scoring on a chip shot by Elizabeth Hatter to account for the final score.
The win moved Bullitt East into Tuesday night’s semi-finals where they were to take on Bardstown, the top-seeded team in the field.
Nelson County, which defeated Bullitt Central 11-0 later on Monday, will play in the other semi-final against Bethlehem.
The winner of those two semi-finals will meet in the championship game at 7 p.m. on Bethlehem’s home field at St. Monica Elementary.
Even with the score tied at 1-1 at halftime, Bullitt East head coach Richard Carver said that there was no panic at the break. In fact, the team was telling jokes.
“I told them it would turn at halftime,” the first-year coach said. “It was our game. They had four shots and we had like 12. We just didn’t connect.
“We honestly told jokes,” Carver added.
Heltsley going out made it impossible for North Bullitt to generate any offense.
“Heltsley and one other girl were the only ones taking shots for them,” Carver noted. “They were working to mark Higginbotham and (Alnee) Tutson and Hottois. That took three players out for them. We didn’t mark Halee. We played a 4-4-2 like we have all season.”
It was a frustrating way to end the season for the Lady Eagles who finished with an 11-10 record.
“Halee had that first goal and I thought we had them where we wanted them,” North Bullitt head coach Ryan Bringhurst said. “We got out of position on number 13 (Hottois) one time and she went down and we gave up that penalty kick. That was what let them get back in it.
“We tried to stop Lexi in the second half,” the first-year coach added. “We had (Elizabeth) Grau on her and she got away one time and that was all it takes.”
Boys’ Ninth District Play
The mission on Sunday was accomplished by the Bullitt East boys’ soccer team - win and advance.
The Chargers did just that with a 6-1 victory in the opening round of the Ninth District tournament over the LaRue County Hawks.
Bullitt East was led by three goals from Ercan Celik. Goals were also supplied by Luke Francke, Haavard Hexeberg and Zachary Turner.
Keeping the ball on the LaRue County side of the field, Bullitt East kept the pressure on keeper Ryan Abell.
Celik got the first of his three goals at the 30:10 mark of the opening half.
The Hawks got even when Raymundo Perez slipped the ball past keeper Reese Milburn for the only score of the day.
With 8:40 left in the half, Francke scored for the right side of the goal.
Mike Brangers’ team would never trail.
With an assist from Morgan Nilsson, Celik scored from the middle of the field with 5:59 left before intermission.
Hexelberg would score his goal with 31:28 left in the game.
Turner took advantage of a rebounded shot and knocked the ball into the net with 7:34 left.
The final goal came with 3:18 to go as Celik scored.
The 6-1 victory advanced Bullitt East to Tuesday night’s game against Nelson County. The final is set for Thursday night.
In another quarterfinal game, Bullitt Central fell 10-0 to Nelson County.
On Monday, North Bullitt opened their district play against Bardstown and gave up three goals in the first half and could not recover, falling 4-0 to the fourth-seeded Tigers who are hosting the boys’ tourney.