South Oldham and Oldham County’s regular season matchup proved to be a tale of two halves.
The Lady Colonels hung tight with the Lady Dragons for 40 minutes, but fitness showed in the second half, as SOHS scored three times to leave La Grange with a comfortable 4-0 win on Sept. 14.
“Oldham County came out tonight, and from the word ‘go’ they were pressing as hard as they could. We were on our heels for a minute,” South Oldham coach Ken Burke said. “From then, I felt like the game belonged to us. I give the credit to the girls for the preparation they put in during the offseason because we wouldn’t be in this good of shape if they didn’t put in the work when no one’s watching.”
With the win, South Oldham clinched the top seed in the 29th District and punched its ticket to the Eighth Region tournament. The Lady Dragons are happy to bypass an additional elimination game on the road to its end goal of capturing a state title.
“When you play an Oldham County rivalry game, it’s going to be closer than you think,” Burke said. “ The game itself is so intense, so physical. There’s a lot of energy and emotions riding on it.”
Oldham County nearly gained a lead in the opening minutes of the match – which would’ve been the first time South Oldham surrendered the first goal of a game this season – but SOHS goalkeeper Katie Feeney made a diving save to preserve the tie.
“I almost kind of wish that it would’ve happened because I would have liked to see what the reaction of the girls would’ve been,” Burke said of the near score. “Would they have been able to come back at them, or would they have been on their heels even worse? You’ve got a great student section, a good fan base, it’s loud. It’s a different environment where you can’t recreate that stuff until you get to a game like this.”
The Lady Dragons earned several set pieces over the next several minutes but couldn’t convert the way they often have been able to this season, something Burke attributed to Oldham County’s defensive prowess.
“One of the best teams in the air is Oldham County. That’s their bread and butter,” Burke said. “You’ve got to pick and choose a couple times that you’re going to get free because otherwise Oldham County is going to be on it.”
With success on set plays evading South Oldham, Ally Byrd found Marley Kahle on a cross pass for the go-ahead goal with 22:25 left in the first half.
“It’s a compliment to South Oldham. They’re a strong team,and they don’t let that rattle them. They just use that as an opportunity to intensify their effort,” Oldham County coach Scott Gural said. “They fixed what we were doing against them and made the adjustments. The idea is that we need to make adjustments to their adjustments.”
That score held until Breanna Dardano turned around and floated a deep strike just over Oldham County keeper Katelyn Wagner’s head nine minutes into the second half to stretch South Oldham’s lead to 2-0.
“Taking the shot was obviously the right decision I thought,” said Dardano, who hadn’t scored this season prior to the strike. “The corner kick before that didn’t work out as we thought it would, but Katie Beth (May) found me again.”
The Lady Dragons finally found success on a set piece just past the midpoint of the second half, as Emily Knabel headed in a corner kick to put SOHS up 3-nil.
“It’s all about timing. That’s why I had missed some of the other ones,” Knabel said. “All of the other ones were like trials. I got a feel for it, timed it and it went in.”
Shortly after, Kate Hallin lined up a strike and shot through traffic. An OCHS defender got a foot on the ball, propelling it high in the air with heavy top spin. The spin hurt the Lady Colonels, as the ball snuck past Wagner to make the score 4-0.
That was more than enough support for South Oldham’s back line, as the Lady Dragons recorded their 10th shutout to improve to 11-1 with a goal differential of 59-4 on the year.
“I can’t say mathematically how many goals it takes to beat South Oldham, but Sacred Heart scored (three) on us, and that’s the most that we’ve had scored on us this year,” Burke said. “We pride ourselves on defense and shutouts as much as possible. If the other team can’t score, they can’t win.”
With Wednesday’s result, Oldham County now knows it will face North Oldham in the district semifinals with a trip to the region tournament on the line for the fifth consecutive season. The two teams meet for their regular season matchup on Sept. 21 in Goshen.
“We know the game that counts is the second one, but with that said, it’s be nice to lay the groundwork in that first one and get a nice result,” Gural said. “We saw them in the summer at camp, and they outplayed us there. It’s just a question of how many adjustments we’ve made since then.”
South Oldham will continue to fine tune itself ahead of the postseason. SOHS has five regular season games left, beginning with a game against Elizabethtown on Sept. 17.
“What we need to focus from here on is making some of those chances that we got count. Some of those set pieces, some of those balls we had slotted across the middle, we’ve got to hammer those home,” Burke said. “We didn’t get that done tonight, but we still walked out of here with a good win, and we’re cruising into the district tournament hopefully.”
SOUTH OLDHAM 4, OLDHAM COUNTY 0
South Oldham 1 3 – 4
Oldham County 0 0 – 0
South Oldham goals: Marley Kahle, Breanna Dardano, Emily Knable, Kate Hallin