September 26, 2007

Lights, camera, strokes: Bruins win primetime drama

Ballard's Kelsey Rothberg


Considering that strokes already had determined the outcome in eight games in Kentucky this season, another flick-off seemed inevitable at Ballard on Tuesday night. The stage was set too perfectly for it.

The Bruins were playing district rival Kentucky Country Day again, six weeks after their 4-3 overtime win in the Apple Tournament quarterfinals. Lights illuminated Chilton Field as dusk turned to darkness, and the large crowd included other Louisville-area players and coaches who came in anticipation of a barnburner.

Sure enough, they got one. Ballard senior Kelsey Rothberg scored the game-tying goal with 7:12 left in regulation, and, after an uneventful overtime period, the Bruins won the flick-off in four strokes for an emotional 2-1 victory.

“I think this was our biggest game yet since the Apple Tournament,” Rothberg (pictured) said. “It was important to all of us.”

But, as Ballard coach Kelly Logsdon noted, the win earned little more than short-term bragging rights. The Bruins (2-0, 14-3) clinched first place in District 1, which only means that they won’t have to play overmatched South Oldham (0-2, 1-9) in the three-team district tournament next month. They’re all but guaranteed another round with KCD (1-1, 9-5-1) in the district final.

“It’s a great win because it’s always nice to beat a rival like KCD,” said Logsdon, who succeeded current KCD coach Amy Charasika on Ballard’s sideline in 2005. “But this isn’t the one we’re worried about. The district final is bigger because (winning or losing) that makes so much difference in where you’re seeded in the state quarterfinals.”

The Bearcats, who routed South Oldham 8-0 on Sept. 4, will meet the Dragons again in the district tournament on Oct. 15. The winner will play the Bruins for the district title on Oct. 17. Ballard will host both games.

“I’m actually excited to have a game before the district final,” Charasika said “I’d rather play a game than practice.”

That might sound like spin, but it probably wasn’t. Charasika has expressed such a preference in the past, and on the whole she was nothing if not upbeat after the loss - which, given the team’s circumstances, was easy to understand.

Junior Kelly Beam, one of KCD’s top scorers, underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn anterior-cruciate ligament in her right knee on Monday; junior defender Megan McCall, one of the first players off the bench, is out indefinitely with a severely sprained ankle; and senior Christena Burell, KCD’s best player, was recovering from a stomach virus and was nowhere near 100 percent.

“I told the players, ‘When you come off the field, make sure you gave everything you had’ - and they did,” Charasika said. “They played an exceptional game tonight.”

Logsdon noticed. Even undermanned, the Bearcats “looked like a different team” to her. “KCD played a great game,” she said.

“We’ve improved 100% since the first time we played Ballard,” Charasika said. “I’m extremely proud of that. We’re getting better and better, and we still have time until the district and state tournaments.”

But it was Ballard’s own recent improvement in a critical facet of the sport - shooting penalty strokes - that won this game.

Logsdon was none too pleased after a 3-2 flick-off loss to Mercy on Sept. 6, when the Bruins failed to convert a stroke. Since then, she has made it a point of emphasis at the end of practices.

“I’ve taken our core group of strokers - about seven or eight girls - and made them get 10 strokes in before they can leave,” Logsdon said. “Sometimes they have to get 10 in as a group, sometimes they have to get 10 in each. I just said, ‘We will not lose in strokes again.’ We weren’t prepared for strokes then. We were tonight.”

Senior Sara Nehring, junior Hannah Walter, and senior Anna Miller beat KCD junior goalie Sarah Anderson (6 saves) with their strokes, and senior Ali Sanders barely missed.

Burell was KCD’s only player to score against Ballard junior goalie Lara Williams (5 saves), who made a spectacular kick save on freshman Paige Henry’s shot, and the Bruins won 3-1.

“They have a great keeper,” Charasika said. “We had some great strokes, but that’s kind of the way the ball bounces.”

A fortunate bounce here or there earlier in the game could have made the difference for the Bearcats, who dominated the first half. Of their seven penalty corners, four produced a point-blank shot on Williams - who stopped them all. Ballard didn’t earn any corners in the half.

KCD’s fifth well-executed corner - in the ninth minute of the second half - was the charm. Senior Gray Robinson passed the ball to senior Christy Chapman, who drove a shot into the cage.

But the Bruins rebounded and outplayed the Bearcats for much of the half, building a 5-3 advantage in corners and a 5-2 advantage in shots on goal. Rothberg finally made one of each count in the 23rd minute, when the Bruins carried out the play Logsdon called to perfection.

Senior Ali Pulliam sent the corner insertion pass to senior Amanda Seeley at the top of the circle, and Seeley dished it to Rothberg to her left. Rothberg then drilled the ball into the opposite corner of the cage.

“That was the first time we ever called that play in a game,” said Rothberg, who has committed to Louisville. “That was the perfect corner. It went just the way it was supposed to go.”