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2018 KENTUCKY STANDARD GIRLS' SOCCER PREVIEW: Banshees want to cement dynasty

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Bethlehem Banshees girls' soccer preview

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Adults perceive the passage of time differently than kids.

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Take Bethlehem’s 2015 trip to the girls’ state soccer semifinals, for instance.

It seems like an eternity ago for senior Abigail Proctor.

“Yes,” she said. “I mean, well, kind of. It just doesn’t seem real that I’m a senior.”

Her coach, Danny Rossoll, feels like it’s been a blur.

“It seems like yesterday,” he said. “This is the quickest four years in a parent’s life, and a coach’s as well. I can’t believe they’re already seniors.”

Since Proctor and fellow forward Madie Sparks, midfielders Carly Beam and Miranda Blanford, and defender Jordan Cross joined the Banshees’ squad in 2015, Bethlehem has dominated the district and region in a fashion befitting of some of the finest Elizabethtown dynasties of previous years. The numbers speak for themselves: 31 straight wins over 5th Region opponents and three titles, as well as 22 consecutive victories over 19th District foes and three titles.

“We’ve talking about closing that story, this chapter in their lives and trying to bookend it,” Rossoll said of the senior group’s legacy. “It’s going to be tough, because the district’s getting better, the region’s getting better.”

Bardstown, most notably. Bethlehem beat the Tigers 3-0 and 3-2 in the regular season last year, but the gap closed in the postseason, with the Banshees needing shootout wins to dispatch the Tigers in the district and region championships.

“They know we have a target on our back,” Rossoll said. “So we’ve got to try to play every game like it’s our last.”

It’s been exciting for the coach to watch that group of then-freshmen mature into the senior leaders they’ve become.

“The transformation I’ve seen (from the seniors) has been unbelievable in how their positivity, and working with the younger girls in a positive way and bringing them into the fold” has brought the team together, Rossoll said. “This year, they’ve been completely the best leaders I could hope for, and that has been refreshing thing to see.”

It was a needed development too. Last year’s squad featured longtime stalwart starters such as defensive anchors Sydney Greenwell and Abby Elder, and midfielder Haley Nelson, whose passing set up Proctor and Sparks to combine for 60 goals last year. Nelson is now playing at Morehead State.

“We’re just trying to set a really good example for the younger kids,” Sparks said. “We need to show them kind of how we play. It’s new for them, but we’ve known them forever, so we’re kind of used to it.”

Cross will be called on to lead a defensive unit that was hit hard by graduation. Junior Mikiah Bryant returns to the back, and midfielder Beam is an outstanding two-way player with her speed.

Sophomore Bella Russell was slated to take over in goal for Elder, but suffered a knee injury in club play and will be out for the season. Lauren Debold, also a sophomore, will move from defender to goal to fill in.

“It’s definitely a lot of responsibility after losing Sydney,” Cross said. “I definitely am a leader by example, and I am trying to recruit girls to come back and play with me” on defense.

In the midfield, Blanford returns as a senior leader, and she will be joined by juniors Laurel Guthrie, Bailey Mudd, Buckley Sparks and Baeli Young, and sophomore Ginny Spalding. Proctor will also absorb some of the facilitating that Nelson did last season.

So while losing key seniors from last year is difficult, by no means is the cupboard bare at Bethlehem.

“It is tough, it is tough,” Rossoll said. “We’re lucky in that we have girls that we think can fill those spots. Those girls are going to be hard to replace.”

Scoring hasn’t been much of an issue for the Banshees since Proctor and Sparks joined the squad. Proctor, who has committed to Eastern Kentucky, has 99 goals and 46 assists in her three years. Sparks, who is also garnering college recruiting interest, has tallied 88 goals and 24 assists during those three years.

“We’re trying to focus more on passing this year,” Sparks said. “Pretty much our main focus is possession into the scoring half to get goals there.”

That’s what the coach likes to hear.

“Playing together” is the key, Rossoll said. “We’ve got talent (and) good, hard workers, but they’ve got to play together and play for each other. That’s going to be the goal.”

Bethlehem’s season opens Monday in the Fayette County Soccer Spectacular against Paul Dunbar.