It’s been lopsided in Mason County’s favor the last few years, but the Fleming County girls’ soccer team is ready to turn the rivalry around.
Haylee Applegate scored twice to lead the Lady Panthers to a 3-2 win over the Lady Royals Wednesday in Maysville for their first victory in the series since the 2013 season.
“It feels good. It’s been a while. It’s been like five or six years. That’s one of the first things we told them, was that back in the ‘70’s we used to be in the same district with Mason and that was a border rival. Still, to us, it’s that way today,” said Fleming County coach Bobby Adams.
“This is a big win, even though it’s just another game. It’s not a district opponent, it’s not a region opponent, but it’s Mason County,” added Adams. “It’s Mason and Fleming. Even academic matches I’m sure are pretty competitive.”
Mason County got on the board first in the 12th minute when Riley Durham passed a ball across the box to Ashleigh Spencer, who one-timed a shot into the corner of the goal for the 1-0 advantage.
The Lady Panthers put the pressure on after that, drawing the score even just a few minutes after Spencer’s goal when Applegate hit a shot with her left foot over the top of Mason County keeper Alexis Adams.
Applegate’s sister, Lauren Applegate, graduated in the spring after finishing as Fleming County’s second-leading scorer last season.
“I would have loved to have them both on the same field, but Lauren graduated and Haylee’s a freshman,” said Adams.
Fleming County racked up eight corner kicks in the first half and kept the ball in the offensive third of the field for the majority of the half, but seven first-half saves from Adams helped keep the Lady Royals in the game.
“Her mind is 110 percent in the game, on the game, always. I love her in the goal,” said Mason County coach Amy Cottam. “I wish I could pull her out and play her offensively at times, but Lexi in the goal is a huge confidence boost for the entire team. Everybody loves her back there.”
The Lady Panthers were able to break through with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half when Alexa Dials got a rebound off her own shot and was able to sneak it into the net with her right foot for the 2-1 lead.
Mason County kept possession and created opportunities early in the second half, like a shot from Rachel Payne that sailed just over the crossbar 10 minutes in, but they were unable to finish.
“Tonight, I think what was keeping us from getting through – they play a deep defense and we’re not really used to that and we’re just learning to play the ball a little wider and stretch that out,” said Cottam. “They get excited, they see all this space and time and they want to take it straight into goal. Learning a little bit of patience and just really learning to work it a little more with each other and just trusting each other in those positions to do their job if they lay the ball off.”
But it was Applegate on the counterattack with about 12 minutes left to give the Lady Panthers a two-goal lead. The freshman was able to get around Mason County defender Nariyah Harrison and send a shot with her right foot across her body and into the back of the net.
“She [Applegate] brings a lot of offense, whether she’s taking the shots or she’s just getting the ball across the field,” said Adams. “We’re working better on our passing. We still have our wing players – we were more of a defensive team last year and our wings didn’t really crash the goal and we’re trying to get that going with the help of Haylee getting the ball to them. We’re trying to focus more on scoring.”
Mason County got a goal late on a free kick from Ashley Taylor, but it was too late to complete the comeback as Fleming County came away with their first victory of the season.
“We came out and we wanted it real bad in the second half,” said Cottam. “It didn’t always go, but we were right there knocking on the door and eventually it’s going to open.”
The Lady Panthers move to 1-1-1 and will play for the third straight day when they return to Maysville to take on St. Patrick on Thursday at 5:30 p.m.
The Lady Royals fall to 0-2-2 with the loss. They’re scheduled to travel to Ripley for a 12 p.m. game on Saturday.
LADY PANTHERS 3, LADY ROYALS 2
Goals: (MC) Spencer 12th minute, (FC) Applegate 15th minute, (FC) Dials 31st minute, (FC) Applegate 68th minute, (MC) Taylor 74th minute
Shots (On goal): Fleming County 21 (13), Mason County 18 (9)
Corner kicks: Fleming County 8, Mason County 3
Saves: Fleming County 7 (Maisie Hendrix), Mason County 10 (Adams)
Records: Fleming County 1-1-1, Mason County 0-2-2