October 12th, 2017

Jaguars fall to Bullitt East in district title game

Block_eric thorne

Eric Thorne

Staff Writer

Jaguars fall to Bullitt East in district title game
Lady Chargers and Jaguars fight for the ball / photo by Eric Thorne

Emily McDonald picked the perfect time to get healthy as the Bullitt East junior tallied a pair of goals to lift the Lady Charges to their first ever win over host Mercy and first 24th District Championship with a 3-1 victory at Mark Evan’s Park on Thursday in the 24th girls soccer tournament.

“They have played us so hard every year and coach told us that we could win this year and that’s what we had our hearts set on,” McDonald said. “I am in shock right now and my heart wants to explode I’m so happy. It’s an amazing feeling. I remember crying last year after we lost and this sure feels better.”

Mercy (7-10) had won the previous 16 meetings between the schools in what has become an intensifying rivalry.

“One and 16 is sure better that 0-17 and while it’s all a perception we know now that we can do it and win a district title,” Bullitt East coach Steven Gentry said. “Give Mercy credit they are really beat up and always play the toughest schedule of anybody. Of course we have 24 hours to enjoy it, but also hope we are mature enough to realize that it doesn’t mean nothing towards next week which is really the big thing.”

It was a battle that looked more like the walking wounded as both teams has several players out with injuries, including four Mercy starters.

“When you have injuries on a team you can use it as an excuse or continue to use it as motivation to work and do things you want to do,” Mercy coach Lora Gralheer said. “Three little mistakes got us today that we can clean up. Congratulations to Bullitt East for taking advantage of them, but we hope to get another shot at them next week.”

McDonald last played in the Lady Chargers 2-1 double-overtime loss to Mercy two weeks ago and returned to the field Wednesday.

Mercy goalkeeper Morgan Scott made diving saves, basket catch saves and one that nearly hit her square in the face save. But the senior would not back down. That was until Tayler Mahoney got one past her with 5:50 left in the half for a 1-0 Lady Charger lead.

“I expected them to come out really tough and we know how hard they wanted this win,” Scott said. “We pushed them and held them for a long time. Obviously we seemed to shut down a little late in the first half and that carried onto the second half with the early goal and we had a big ladder to climb after that.”

When the teams took the field to start the second half, McDonald broke free on the right side of the box and sent a crossing shot past Scott just 52 seconds into the half for a 2-0 lead.

 “I think everyone really put in their best effort which is nice to see as a senior especially since our team is still young with all the injuries,” Mulvoy said. “We kept our heads high and when I leave I know just how much I’ve seen the young girls grow exponentially as the season has progressed. We know we can show Bullitt East so much more when we meet them again next week hopefully.

Mikayla Miller got the Jaguars on the scoreboard with 31:38 left when the junior juked her defender at the top of the box and slid her shot past goalkeeper Ninia Embry making it 2-1.

“The freshman got a lot of experience because we had to have them play. We have nine on the team and they all got some valuable time,” Miller said. “We needed someone to step up tonight, and I wanted it to be me. Lora said we were only down one goal and keep fighting. We never quit.”

 “One of things we talk about is constantly being organized and being under control with patience and composure and that’s hard with freshman filling the role of the injured upperclassman,” Gralheer said. “But they did all of those things and played a great style of soccer and I couldn’t be more proud and overjoyed with them.”

McDonald sealed the victory for Bullitt East when Madison Gregory sent a corner kick her way and she headed it past Scott for a 3-1 advantage with 15:25 remaining.  It was McDonald’s team leading 20th goal of the season.

“I’ve missed two weeks and really wanted to make sure I played for my team tonight,” McDonald said. “Usually I get nervous but tonight I told myself think of this game like its practice and I’m shooting on our goalie and not as Mercy. Relax and just shoot like nothing else is going on but practice.”

Gentry was definitely glad McDonald was back on the field.

“She’s been out since the Mercy game and the difference is we’re starting to get some of our injured players back where as Mercy has lost a couple of kids,” Gentry said. “That’s the key is us getting healthy at the right time. Don’t think I haven’t missed her.”

“Getting some of our girls back hopefully for next week will help and just keep communicating and connecting passes and I think we have a shot next week at regionals,” Miller said. “There were a lot of nerves tonight, but we’ll be prepared for next week. Let jitters go and just leave it all on the field.”

Both teams advance to next week’s Sixth Region tournament. Mercy will play a district champion while Bullitt East plays a district runner-up.


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