Lady Blazers

As they entered penalty kicks against Madisonville-North Hopkins, the University Heights Academy Lady Blazers had the Lady Maroons right where they wanted them. 

Yes, the Lady Blazers would have liked to put the game away in regulation, but walking into penalty kicks, a place where they were 2-0 on the year coming in, they were as confident as ever.

That confidence showed.

UHA stunned Madisonville-North Hopkins 2-1 (winning 4-1 in PKs), snapping the Lady Maroons’ 19-game win streak -- their first loss since the season opener as the Lady Blazers advanced to the Second Region Championship for the second year in a row.

Lady Blazers’ head coach Michael Parker said he told his team it was right where it wanted to be when it was time for penalties, having defeated Murray at All “A” semi-state and Hopkinsville in the Eighth District Championship prior to Wednesday’s game.

“We’re over here talking before the PKs and I said, ‘Ladies, we’ve got to be the favorites. We’ve done this twice this season and won both times,’” he said. “I really felt we needed to remain calm and do what we’re capable of doing and that’s why it all worked out. We didn’t take the last one because we made the first four. I thought the girls stepped up really composed. 

“I’ve never prouder of a team than I am with this bunch. Every time you give them a challenge, they go out and face it head-on and that’s what they did tonight.”

It didn’t matter who stepped up for UHA. Whether it was Ashlyn Parker, Emma Perry, Grace Pape or Piper Hancock, all of them calmly put it by the Madisonville keeper, leaving it up to Lainey Burman, who said she lives for these moments.

“I was hoping we would get one during golden goal, but obviously I didn’t want to get scored on -- I was just waiting for the clock to run down honestly,” Burman said. “I was really excited about PKs and (that) we were able to pull it out again.”

Hancock said she, as well as the rest of her teammates, had the utmost faith in Burman to make the stops and put UHA in a position to win.

“We know she always has our backs,” Hancock said of Burman. “She’s just got us if we make mistakes. She’s just always there for us.”

After Lady Maroons star sophomore Camryn LaGrange scored on the first penalty, Burman stonewalled Lillie Carmen and Shayla Embry to give Hancock the chance to put the Lady Blazers in the region title game.

Burman said she went with her instincts and stayed home during the last kick and it paid off for her and her team.

“Obviously I need to pick left or right and she hit it right down the middle,” Burman said. “A lot of times, even in professional games, goalkeepers go left or right and they’ll shoot right down the middle and it will go in. I’m glad I didn’t do that and I’m glad I stuck to my gut and saved it.”

With the ball on Hancock’s foot for the win, the sophomore wanted to make sure she didn’t let her nerves get the best of her.

“I just wanted to stay calm (and) stay relaxed,” Hancock said. “Pick a corner and just go with my gut.”

The ball snuck past the keeper and the celebration ensued, as the Lady Blazers successfully pulled off arguably the biggest upset in the Second Region this year -- and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

During regulation, the Blazers opened the scoring when Pape caught Lady Maroons’ keeper Kara Franklin out of position, sending a rocket from 30-yards out in the 25th minute to give UHA the early advantage.

After the break, Madisonville managed to equalize the game off a corner kick in the 51st minute. LaGrange found a loose ball in the box and slipped it past Burman and the defense. The goal was the sophomore’s 98th career goal.

Parker knew the one goal wouldn’t be enough to get a win, and despite a few things not falling their way, thought his team played hard throughout the game

“I thought we played about as hard as we could,” Parker said. “We knew 1-0 wasn’t going to decide the game. We knew we needed a second one.

“We spoke at halftime. We said they were going to come back and get a goal … I thought our girls hung tough and just gave a great performance in the second half.”

After 90 minutes of action and penalty kicks, Parker said rest is most important prior to the lady Blazers’ meeting with Henderson County tomorrow night.

“Go home and lie in the bath for 30 minutes -- let the muscles soothe a little bit and get ready to play tomorrow night,” Parker said. “It’ll be another tough one tomorrow night and we’ve got to be ready to play.”

UHA is 0-12-1 against Henderson County since the Lady Colonels moved from the Third Region into the Second, but Burman is confident that her team can win its first Second Region Crown since 2008 tomorrow night at the Stadium of Champions.

“We’re confident -- we know it’s going to be a good game,” Burman said. “We know we’re going to have to try as hard as we did tonight … We’re excited and we’re hopefully going to come out with a dub.”

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS ACADEMY 2, MADISONVILLE-NORTH HOPKINS 1 (UHA WINS 4-1 IN PKS)

UHA 1 0-0 --1

MNHHS 0 1-0--1

Penalty Kicks

UHA:OOOO-- 4

MNNHS: OXX-  -- 1

UHA: Grace Pape (1 goal)

MNHHS: Camryn LaGrange (1 goal)

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