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OKOLONA - There are a lot of people in Bullitt County who are upset that the local high schools are competing exclusively with Jefferson County teams in the post-season.
Don't count North Bullitt girls' soccer coach Ryan Bringhurst amongst that group. In fact, don't count any of the local girls' soccer coaches as being against the shift.
Bringhurst and his North Bullitt Lady Eagle program won its first girls' district soccer title on Wednesday when they defeated Bullitt Central 6-2. It was the first time that Bullitt Central had reached a district soccer final in more than a decade.
Add in the fact that Bullitt East also advanced to this week's Sixth Region Tournament (see story on page B-12) and there is a trio of happy coaches in the sport at this point.
After more than a decade in which no local girls' soccer team advanced past the district semi-finals, the fact that there are now three of the seven teams in this week's Sixth Region Tournament from Bullitt County will bring a lot of smiles locally. There is a very good chance that North Bullitt and Bullitt East will clash on Wednesday at Holy Cross in one of the regional semi-finals. That will be the latest two local teams have met in the post-season in the district-regional-state format in over 20 years.
Bringhurst had set the goal of a district title back before the season began and his team was more than up to the task last week. The Lady Eagles beat Moore 10-0 on Monday and then pulled away from Bullitt Central on Wednesday for their second victory this season over the Lady Cougars.
After the title, North Bullitt fans unfurled a large banner proclaiming the program's first post-season title.
Did reality meet up to the coaches' dream of how it would feel?
"Absolutely. No question about that," Bringhurst said with a big smile after the big trophy was safely in the hands of senior Myranda Druien. "I had some nerves today and so did the girls, but we came ready to go. We came out and played well."
In the first meeting with Bullitt Central, the Lady Eagles won 3-0, but that game was only 1-0 at halftime and the Lady Cougars had a number of good scoring chances early in the second half before the green and gold pulled away.
On Wednesday, North Bullitt scored first and then kept right on scoring. The Lady Eagles were up 4-0 before Bullitt Central scored late in the first half only to have Bringhurst's team tack on another goal just before halftime.
North Bullitt scored again early in the second half and then coasted to the victory.
The first goal of the game came 12 minutes in when Bullitt Central was called for a trip in the box. That gave North Bullitt a penalty kick and Druien converted that. Moments later, there was a rush of players in front of the goal and Bullitt Central goalie Kaylee Lovell got her hands on the ball only to be bumped by Amber Johnson with Lovell falling into the goal with the ball.
Now the goals were coming faster. Bre Sherrard, who had scored five goals in the semi-final win over Moore, scored right in front of the goal and moments later Kristi Velasquez scored at the end of a long run.
Bullitt Central finally got on the scoreboard late in the half. The Lady Cougars got a free kick from 25-yards out and senior Crystal Lemons knocked the ball just under the crossbar for a goal. North Bullitt then got the momentum right back when Sherrard scored again.
In the second half, Taylor Johnson got an early goal for the Lady Eagles. Bullitt Central then closed out the scoring when freshman Kassi Gilbert converted a penalty kick.
"It was a much better start for us," Bringhurst said of the second meeting with Bullitt Central. "That last time there was rain and lightning and a delayed start. I think we came out then and weren't ready to play. Today we were focused and we hit our stride and were ready to go."
This has been the best season for Bullitt Central in a long time as they now stand at 6-7-1 heading into regional play.
"That was a goal," first-year head coach Brandy Sharp said of getting to the second-round of the play-offs. "Now we can look ahead to regional.
"It has been a good year," the coach added. "We've scored a lot of goals. Our back-up goalie (Lovell) came in and helped out after an accident (to senior Dana Spina)."
On Tuesday, Bullitt Central reached the championship game with a 6-0 victory over Southern, the host team for the event.
Gilbert scored four of those goals for the Lady Cougars while both Lemons and Hope Grimes had one goal.
After the team trophies were handed out on Wednesday, North Bullitt's Bre Sherrard, Myranda Druien and Amber Johnson were named to the All-Tournament Team. They were joined by Bullitt Central senior Katie Hutchison and Gilbert along with Moore's Elizabeth Horsman and Southern's Kristina Lindsey.