Even though Danville (12-3-1) is safely in the 15th Region Tournament, the stakes are still high for the district final at 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The Admirals will meet Marion County, which beat Boyle County 3-2 in Thursday's second semifinal, and the winner earns the right to host next week's regional.
"We're all really excited," Danville midfielder Julie Johnson said. "We still have at least two more games. And if we win Saturday we get to host (the regional), and we all love our field."
The Admirals made themselves right at home on Garrard's muddy field. They got goals from McKenzie McAfee and Jessie Davis, and their defense held Garrard (7-10-2) to only three shots, only one more than it managed in a 5-0 loss to Danville Aug. 24.
Fourth-seeded Garrard was without its leading scorer, senior forward Abby Parsons, for much of the game. Parsons was ill and was off the field for roughly 30 of the game's 80 minutes, and coach Curt Carrier said her absence badly weakened the Lions' offense.
"The girls played a lot harder (than in the first meeting), but with her out of the game our offense wasn't there," Carrier said. "We started out with a little bit of offense in the first half but the ball just stayed on the other end of the field in the second half."
Danville controlled the game by controlling the ball, outshooting Garrard 13-2 in the first half and 9-1 in the second to get the win that Johnson said the team's older players craved.
"Some of us have been playing since eighth grade, and it seems every year we've lost the first game," said Johnson, one of the team's six seniors.
Danville won its last district title in 2001, when the seniors were freshmen. The Admirals followed that with two straight losing seasons.
"For the seniors who've had a couple of rough years, this is especially important for them," Lauer said.
This year's team has players from all four classes in its starting lineup, and Johnson said it's a good blend.
"We all just seem to connect really well," she said. "We get along."
Two underclassmen step up
Danville's goals came from two of the team's underclassmen. McAfee started the scoring on a penalty kick with 9:49 left in the first half after drawing a foul in the penalty box from Garrard's Jordan Bastin.
The Admirals' second goal came with 19:13 remaining after Molly Pittman pushed the ball downfield only to lose control in the box. Jessie Davis pounced on the loose ball about five yards from the goal and punched it past Garrard goalkeeper Jordan Smith with her left foot.
Smith had 13 saves for the Lions, while Danville goalkeeper Liz Ruth had saves on all three Garrard shots.
Marion's Laura Swencki, who had three goals in Thursday's 3-2 win over Boyle County, didn't play when Danville beat Marion 4-1 on Sept. 1. Lauer said that will make Saturday's title game far different from the regular-season meeting.
"We pretty much know it'll be a different game on Saturday," Lauer said. "They obviously have a lot of team speed. They have several players who are very fast, and it'll be a challenge for us to contain those players."