Girls soccer playoffs: Top players and teams heading into district tournaments

Nearly two months of girls high school soccer has come down to this fateful week for most of the state’s 201 teams.

By the end of the first full week of October, 64 will be crowned district champions and another 64 will live on to play as district runners-up in 16 regionals. But only one team per region can reach the state tournament..

In Central Kentucky’s 11th Region, Lexington Catholic has dominated each of the last four years. And as the No. 2-ranked team in the state according to the latest Maher Rankings, the Knights seem favored to keep on rolling.

Can anyone end LexCath’s reign? No. 10 Lafayette, No. 18 Frederick Douglass, No. 19 Paul Laurence Dunbar and No. 26 Henry Clay will be among those who will try.

Lexington’s nine teams (plus No. 33 Scott County) are divided into the 42nd and 43rd districts. Here’s a look at some of the top players and storylines heading into district tournament play.


Lexington Catholic coach Terry Quigley is not sure why his teams have had such a run of success against the rest of the 43rd District and 11th Region over the last decade.

“It starts with having a nice school that people like and then they send their girls here and I just try to figure out where they fit on the field,” Quigley said with a smile, downplaying his role even though he’s won more girls high school soccer games than any coach in Kentucky. “They come with talent and they’ve been coached by some of the best club coaches. … We’re a beneficiary of that.”

Since 2014, only Tates Creek (in 2017 and 2019) has snatched a 43rd District title away from LexCath. The Knights have only failed to win the 11th Region crown the same number of times over that span with Dunbar coming out on top in 2014 and 2018.

Madison Southern was the only 11th Region team able to score on LexCath this year in a 3-1 loss. The Knights defeated their four district rivals by a combined score of 18-0.

“We have three senior starters and a whole bunch of good players,” Quigley said. “Ally Nowlin is really solid in the back and we’ve given up very few goals, and forwards Sydney Elbert and Zara McCarthy put pressure on people. … And there’s a host of really nice passers around them.”

Best matchups

The semifinal pairings of Paul Laurence Dunbar and Lafayette in the 43rd District on Monday and Henry Clay and Scott County in the 42nd on Tuesday present win-or-go home scenarios and seemingly evenly matched teams.

Dunbar’s overtime penalty shootout win over Lafayette on Sept. 6 helped secure the district’s second seed, a marked improvement over the Bulldogs’ last-place seed a season ago. They are led by Emily Harper’s 10 goals and Layla Flynn’s eight assists.

“A lot of us have come back from injuries and it feels like we’re finally putting it together and playing to our strengths,” Dunbar senior midfielder Eva Blackman said after the Bulldogs cemented their 2-seed with a 2-0 win over LCA on Sept. 13. “We have a lot of seniors this year who want this last season to really be the best one. … We have high hopes for districts, so we’re excited.”

Lafayette counters with a roster that includes nine seniors, including leading scorers Lily Simpson (18) and Aubrey Cloyd (10).

Henry Clay will have to contend with a Cardinals team that has had its best season in a decade. The Blue Devils topped Scott County 3-2 on Sept. 6, but the Cardinals have shown a lot of firepower this season, led by Tatum Borman’s 33 goals. Grace Plummer leads Henry Clay with 12 goals.

Douglass looks to get over the hump

Frederick Douglass has entered the 42nd District tournament three times in its first six years as the tournament’s No. 1 seed, but it has yet to claim the title.

A trio of double-digit goal scorers — Haley Flynn (17), Maddie Merryweather (14) and Jordan “Jojo” Williams (13) — aim to make the fourth time the charm.

Lexington Catholic’s Sydney Elbert (7) takes a shot while defended by Lafayette’s Emory Arnold during last season’s girls 43rd District finals at Tates Creek.
Lexington Catholic’s Sydney Elbert (7) takes a shot while defended by Lafayette’s Emory Arnold during last season’s girls 43rd District finals at Tates Creek.

Top scorers

Katherine Monohan, Sayre, 44; Tatum Borman, Scott County, 33; Zara McCarthy, Lexington Catholic, 20; Juliette Longbottom, Sayre, 19; Lily Simpson, Lafayette, 18; Sydney Elbert, Lexington Catholic, 17; Haley Flynn, Frederick Douglass, 17; Kennedy Harmon, Scott County, 15; Joanna Bryant, Lexington Catholic, 14; Izzy Skinner, Lexington Catholic, 14; Maddie Merryweather, 14.

Assist leaders

Longbottom, Sayre, 24; Bryant, Lexington Catholic, 14; Zeia Fanucchi, Sayre, 14; Borman, Scott County, 12; Campbell Tippey, Lafayette, 12; McCarthy, Lexington Catholic, 11; Elbert, Lexington Catholic, 10; Skinner, Lexington Catholic, 10; Ava Wilson, Henry Clay, 9; Lucy DeMovellan, Lexington Catholic, 9, Merryweather, Frederick Douglass, 9.

Stingiest defenses

Lexington Catholic has allowed only eight goals all season and recorded 15 shutouts with junior Sarah Wethington and sophomore Bella Bretz splitting time between the pipes.

Paul Laurence Dunbar and Douglass tie for the next fewest goals allowed at 16 apiece. Dunbar’s defense is led by senior keeper Amber Brandon, who has seven shutouts. Douglass junior keeper Reese Walker has nine shutouts.

42nd District Girls Soccer Tournament

At Bryan Station

Sunday’s first round

2 p.m.: Sayre (10-6-0) vs. Bryan Station (2-17-1)

Monday’s semifinal

6 p.m.: Sayre-Bryan Station winner vs. Frederick Douglass (14-4-1)

Tuesday’s semifinal

6 p.m.: Henry Clay (8-8-2) vs. Scott County (11-3-4)

Wednesday’s championship

6 p.m.: Semifinal winners meet

43rd District Girls Soccer Tournament

At Lafayette

Sunday’s first round

7 p.m.: Lexington Christian (6-10-1) vs. Tates Creek (8-7-0)

Monday’s semifinals

6:15 p.m.: Lexington Catholic (18-1-1)* vs. LCA-Tates Creek winner

8 p.m.: Paul Laurence Dunbar (10-6-1) vs. Lafayette (13-3-3).

Wednesday’s championship

7 p.m.: Semifinal winners meet

*Saturday’s results not included.

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