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Lady Eagles rally to top Murray

Graves County's Madeline Byrd gets the ball and pushes it up the field and past Murray's Allyson Carson Tuesday at Marshall County.

ERIC WALKER/The Mayfield Messenger

By ERIC WALKER ewalker@mayfield-messenger.com

DRAFFENVILLE -- The first half of Tuesday's Second District girls soccer semifinal between Graves County and Murray was what most expected the whole match to be: A back-and-forth shootout that could come down to who had the ball last.

It just is that way when the Lady Eagles and Lady Tigers face each other.

This season, Graves had swept Murray in the regular season, 6-0 and 4-2. But postseason soccer, one can't go with what's happened in the past.

So it was no surprise when both teams were knotted 3-3 at halftime. But in the final 40 minutes, Graves County shutdown Murray's scoring threat in Parker Greer and pushed ahead for a 5-3 win.

That victory advances the Lady Eagles to Thursday's 5:30 p.m. district championship against either Calloway County or Marshall County. Both will face off today at 5:30 p.m. at Marshall's Colburn Soccer Complex.

"Credit to the girls. They never gave up, even though they were down goals the entire first half," Graves County head coach Gerardo Hererra said.

The Lady Tigers scored all three goals in the first half and all off the foot -- and head -- of Parker Greer. She opened scoring in the fourth minute, repeated 10 minutes later to finish off a feed from Abby Elmore, and again in the 30th minute on a rebound header to constantly stay up on the Lady Eagles.

Each time, though, the Lady Eagles answered. Raychel Mathis knotted the game three minutes after Greer's first goal before turning the scoring reins over to Madeline Byrd.

Byrd scored her first goal off a dish from Mathis in the 16th minute to even things, 2-2. She gathered Mathis' pass and managed a slightly off-balance shot that rolled past keeper Kennedy Keller.

Byrd then added to it with three minutes left in the first half that kept both teams tied up, 3-3.

"We knew Murray was going to come to play," Hererra said. "They scored on every opportunity they had in the first half."

Fourteen minutes into the second half, the Lady Eagles broke free offensively and clamped down defensively. Graves took a 4-3 lead on a give-and-go-and-give-and-score between Mathis, Byrd and Anna Whitaker.

Mathis pushed the ball upfield and dished to Byrd who was in striking distance. Keller overplayed the ball, and Byrd got behind her but also beside the goal. Her pass then was taken by Whitaker, who punched it into an open net.

Then in the 63rd minute, Ellie Carter's shot cleared Keller's hands for the winning tally.

Meanwhile, Greer and the Lady Tigers were kept silent in the final half.

"In the first half, we were doing a good job with pressure but there was no cover so she could break the first defender and go by herself," Hererra said of Greer. "In the second half, we had a second defender ready."

The Lady Eagles have lost only once this season on Marshall's pitch that stopped a 3-0-1 start to the year. Since then, they've won 14 straight. And now another district title is on the line with a shot at another regional crown, too.

"I told the girls from now on, each game is a championship game," Hererra said. "We just have to play like it's a championship game."