A BANNER SEASON: Spencer County Lady Bears record best regular season in recent history

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By John Shindlebower


There hangs a banner in the Spencer County High School gymnasium from nearly a decade ago that recognizes Spencer County’s first winning season in girls’ soccer. The program has always had some dedicated players who competed hard, but success has been fleeting, coaching changes have been constant and that banner began to look lonely.This year, the Spencer County Lady Bears are truly having a banner year, racking up a 16-3-1 record and gaining respect around the region and the state with mentions in several polls. They are a high-scoring team, with more than double the goals (113) of any other team in the 8th Region and they’ve allowed the second fewest goals (26). As the playoffs begin next week, expectations are high and rightly so.
The turnaround began a few years ago when this team’s crop of seniors arrived as freshmen. Current varsity coach Troy Stevens, who along with Jonathan Jaggers, assumed coaching duties at the end of last season after yet another coaching change, said the group of freshmen arrived on campus having already tasted much success in youth and club soccer. He credits youth coach Phyllis Banks for instilling in them the knowledge and the love of the game at an early age. This group of girls knew what it took to win and the importance of playing together, so when they first put on the Bears’ blue and white uniforms, a winning attitude was inevitable.“It all started when this group of girls were around 9 or 10 years old,” said Stevens. “Coach Banks deserves a lot of the credit. She taught them to love the game.”
As freshmen, they joined a varsity team that also had some talent and the goals came in bunches, 116 for the season, a school record. The girls finished 14-7 on the season and were runners-up in the district. As sophomores, the group still had a winning 12-10 season and was really looking forward to a big junior year. That’s when the squad was plagued with injuries even before the season began. Their record took a hit, finishing 7-14 on the season, but they ended strong with another trip to the region and a victory in the first round of the 8th Region tournament.Still, with all the talent and expectations that accompanied this freshmen class, the girls knew coming into this season, that it was their last chance to make their mark. So far, they’ve made it boldly.
After an opening one-goal loss to Nelson County, the Lady Bears reeled off six straight victories, before battling perennial power South Oldham to a 2-2 tie. Then came two straight one-goal losses to strong teams in northeastern Kentucky. Since that mid-season blip, the girls have been on a roll. They’ve won 10 straight games and have been rolling over much of the competition.Stevens said this group of girls has been dedicated since youth. He said both they and their parents deserve credit for all the club soccer and camps they’ve attended, and said success at this level requires the year-round commitment these girls have made to their sport.
That’s translated into a new level of respect.“It’s not like years past, where we were seen as just an easy game for some of our opponents. Spencer County is now one of the stronger teams. I think they respect us and will for years to come,” said Stevens.
The talent on this team is not only among the seniors. He said he has younger players providing valuable roles on this team and the JV squad will be a force in coming years as well.While the offense generates a lot of attention and has a number of Spencer County girls listed among state leaders, Stevens said his team is balanced with a great defense as well. Jasmine Thomas has excelled at goalie this season and the defenders take pride in their game.
“We are a team. Our offensive players score goals, our mid-fielders possess the ball and distribute and our defenders and goalie keep players from scoring on us. Every player knows what her job is and they have mutual respect for each other,” said Stevens.As a team, the Lady Bears are ranked seventh in the state in scoring for the season. Individually, Madison Ratchford’s 32 goals so far ranks her in the top 10. Even more impressive is that three of the state’s top 15 players in assists are Lady Bears, including Ratchford, Shelby Lurie and Hannah Jaggers.
It’s no surprise then, that a number of these seniors are getting serious looks from colleges. Jaggers has already committed to Ohio University while at least six others are being recruited by schools, including Ratchford, Lurie, Libby Cox, Hannah Robards, Taylor Brian and Allie Stevens. Two others, Grace Wente and Jasmine Thomas both have academic scholarships lined up.Despite what happens in the next couple of weeks, the Lady Bears soccer program is flying high and much of the credit goes to this group of girls who arrived in 2010 with the confidence to pursue big dreams.
Last week, the Lady Bears dispatched of rival Bullitt East 4-2, and they finish their regular season Wednesday at Louisville Ballard.Next Monday, the girls will travel to Anderson County to square off with Collins in the first round of the district tournament. The Lady Bears will be the favorite to take the title, and then hopefully will move on the following week to the regional tournament.