LEBANON — The Honaker girls picked up their third soccer win in a row. The Tigers dealt Lebanon a 2-0 defeat in front of a big crowd at Harry Stuart Field on a cold and extremely windy night May 2.
“This is great,” Honaker junior Kedryn Hess said. “We’ve worked hard, been practicing and waiting to play Lebanon. My team has a lot of chemistry, and I think we were prepared for this game.”
It was Senior Night for the Pioneers in the defensive struggle between the two Russell County rivals. The Pioneers had the first opportunity for a score. Freshman Chloee Dillon drove in for a shot and collided with Honaker goalkeeper McKenzie Lowe. The shot was cleared off-line by Honaker’s Abigail Farmer to deny Lebanon.
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“That’s been our luck this year,” Lebanon coach Brian Dillon said. “It’s something we’ve struggled with all season long. A touch here, a bounce there, a connected pass here, and it’s different.
“I talked to the girls before the game, let’s play hard. It’s Honaker, senior night, ASA (youth soccer) is here, use the emotion and fuel, and they did. I’m happy and pleased with the girls.”
It stayed scoreless for over 34 minutes into the first half. Julia Barton got the Tigers on the board, scoring on a breakaway for a 1-0 advantage with 5:15 remaining in the half.
“That was great,” Hess said. “We were lacking a little bit, so that goal gave us a big morale boost, and we all started playing better.”
Hess almost scored before the end of the half, but Lebanon deflected the shot above the net. The Pioneers were right there at the break.
“We knew after beating Lebanon 4-0 last time, we would have to put in the work,” Honaker coach Alicia Musick said. “We had to push, get aggressive and dig deep. It was a slow start.”
The Tigers got a little breathing room early in the second half. A corner kick from Kiley Musick went to Hess, who had a head bump into the net.
“It’s always a blur when I’m getting ready for a corner,” Hess said. “I’ve been practicing with Kiley on it, so we were prepared. I’m just glad I made it.”
The goal put Honaker up 2-0 with 32:03 left to play.
“We’ve been practicing corners a lot the last two weeks,” coach Musick said. “She’s been practicing jumping up and heading them in. It’s nice to see when they put all that work in for it to pay off in a game.”
Both teams kept attacking. The ball was mainly in the Lebanon half of the field, but the Tigers couldn’t get another score.
“It was stressful,” Hess said. “But we adjusted, and I think all the girls played well.”
Honaker (6-3-1) hopes to keep the momentum as the regular season winds down.
“We’ve got two more regular-season games, and then we’ll be looking at Lebanon in regional play,” Musick said. “It’ll be another hard-fought battle, but hopefully, we’ll be able to come out on top. I think my girls will dig deep and push through.”
Lebanon (1-9) continues to make progress.
“I don’t know many coaches that commend a loss, but I’m really proud of our effort,” Dillon said. “We hung right there until the very end. I felt like my girls battled for 80 minutes, and that’s all I could ask for. The chances were there. We had more shots tonight than in the last three or four games total, so I was happy with that. We just have to keep working. Honaker is a good team; it was a fun soccer match to coach and watch. I’m proud of my girls. I thought they gave a wonderful effort.”
After a loss at Graham on April 4, the Lebanon boys have reeled off seven wins. In a rematch of the Region 1D finals of 2022, the Pioneers notched a 2-0 victory over the Tigers.
“I feel we played much better than we did up at Honaker [a 1-0 Lebanon win],” Lebanon acting coach Ethan Trent said. “We were shut down the second half, but we battled through some adversity, and I’m proud of my guys.”
Lebanon (10-1-1) took the lead when Grayson Olson got the ball to Carter Dillon, who found the top right corner of the net with 20:16 to play in the first.
“That goal came from the relentless effort,” Trent said. “That’s what we talk about — we have a great team, but we have to outwork every opponent to win. A big key is getting to the 50-50 balls and winning them.”
The Pioneers put up a second goal on a corner kick from Carter Dillon, which Eli Taylor scored on for a 2-0 lead with 12:05 to play in the half, allowing Lebanon to breathe easier.
“A two-goal lead in soccer is dangerous,” Trent said. “You feel like you have a cushion, but it can always go south. I’m proud of my guys for staying strong, keeping their heads right and getting the clean sheet.
“I like where we’re at, we just have to keep the mentality that we have to play our best for 80 minutes every time we step on the field. I talk about the standard we can play at when we play our best. If we hit that, we’re a hard team to beat.”
It was a disappointing setback for a Honaker (11-2) team whose only two losses have come to Lebanon.
“You can’t win if you don’t score. You can’t score if you don’t play offense and take care of the ball,” Honaker coach Wilburn Johnson said. “We didn’t do that tonight. Especially in the first half, our energy wasn’t great, and I felt Lebanon’s was. The hat’s off to them.
“We didn’t communicate with each other and pass to each other. We’re still a work in progress, we just have to keep improving.”