For only the second time in school history, the Lincoln County boys soccer team has advanced to the 30th District Tournament finals.
Lincoln fell short of its quest for a district title last season but the soccer Patriots earned another shot at the title Tuesday night by ousting Southwestern 3-2 in the semifinals at LCHS.
Striker Carter Dunn scored two goals in the first 11 minutes of the game to help Lincoln (12-5-1) advance to tonight’s (Thursday’s) final and lock up a berth in next week’s 15th Region Tournament.
“This is what we wanted,” said Lincoln coach Wendy Peters. “Last year, we got a taste of what it’s like to win in the district and we knew we wanted to do it again. And we will be back here Thursday night at 7 o’clock to finish the job.”
Tuesday’s victory was especially sweet for Peters and the soccer Patriots as they were looking to redeem themselves after a disappointing 6-4 loss to Southwestern in the regular season.
“It was an upset that was hard to take,” she said. “I knew our dynamics were off on that game due to some injuries we had sustained in the South Laurel game. We needed to set things right tonight and I feel that we did.”
And Lincoln “did” early.
Not even a full minute had elapsed before Lincoln was setting up for a penalty kick after a trip in the box call against Southwestern. Dunn, who was tripped on the foul, took the free one-on-one kick against Southwestern goalkeeper Derrick Puerto and won, delivering a high shot into the net above Puerto’s hands with the clock showing 38:57.
Southwestern (5-14-1) also wasted little time getting on the scoreboard. Less than three minutes after the Dunn goal, Warrior striker Lucas Garrett dribbled to the left of goal then punched in a shot to the back right corner behind Lincoln keeper David Greene to even the score at 1-1.
The tie lasted all of six minutes with Dunn firing in a shot just to the left of Puerto with 29:25 showing to put Lincoln up for good, 2-1.
All of Lincoln’s scoring was done before the midway point of the first half. Two minute’s after Carter Dunn’s second goal, another Dunn, Jake Dunn, came through for the soccer Patriots, with Jake scoring on a breakaway to put Lincoln up 3-1.
“We struck very quick in the game,” said Peters. “We got that kick to open the game and then Carter Dunn fired right back with it. And then Jake fired the third goal right after that.”
“I feel tonight the Lincoln County team we saw was the team that we all expect,” she said. “I just think we came together and brought the team that they didn’t see four weeks ago. This is the team that we have. This is the team we’re going to bring Thursday.”
Southwestern made it a one-point game just before the half, with Pablo Garcia scoring on Greene with 3:58 left to make it 3-2.
Up 3-2 at the half, Peters changed her team strategy from scoring mode to defensive mode.
“It only takes one point to win a game,” said Peters. “The halftime talk I gave them was that, ‘We have that lead. We have that lead. Let’s work on maintaining that lead.’ We did switch the midfield strategy to where we played a little bit more defensively. We wanted to hold that one-point lead. At that point, we had the luxury of doing that.”
Lincoln and Southwestern traded shots in the second half but none hit their mark. Greene had three saves on the Warrior’s nine second-half shots on goal but Puerto was the keeper getting a real workout in the final 40 minutes with many of Lincoln’s 11 second-half shots right on target only to be deflected or caught by the senior keeper.
“Southwestern brought a game tonight. A 3-2 soccer game is a very competitive, very level playing field. But he helped make it as close as it was,” Peters said. “The score would have been a lot larger spread.”
Overall, Lincoln had 23 shots on goal and Southwestern had 21.
Last year’s district champion Somerset, the district’s No. 1 seed, will not be defending its title tonight against Lincoln. Pulaski County scored a 2-1 upset over the favored Briar Jumpers in Tuesday’s first game to set up the district final. The PC win caught Peters by surprise.
“I’m not sure that we had predicted Pulaski County to win that,” said Peters. “I think in our minds we really had us making it to Thursday night but we had us playing Somerset. Now, we’re going to be playing PC. As we saw in the early game, anything can happen.”
But Pulaski or Somerset, Peters says Lincoln is ready to take its first-ever soccer title.
“Tonight we showed the speed that we were boasting of all along. We showed the depth we were boasting of. We showed the skill we were boasting of. I think Thursday is wide open doable,” said Peters.