By Garth Shanklin
There’s something to be said in the sports world for getting hot at the right time. Teams have won titles simply by meshing together just before the playoffs began and playing some of their best games in the postseason.
In the NCAA basketball tournament, coming together as a team can take you as far as the championship game. The Amelia Lady Barons are hoping their late-season spurt continues into the postseason.
The team started the season 5-1 after defeating Western Brown 4-1 on Sept. 7. They then went on a slight skid, dropping back-to-back non-conference games against Madeira and Little Miami before defeating Norwood 5-0 on Sept. 22.
Since that game, the team hasn’t lost a contest and is only a 2-2 tie against New Richmond away from being perfect in a seven-game stretch. Head coach Amy Kemmer said the season hasn’t exactly gone to plan, but she likes where the team is heading into the postseason.
“We’ve had a few more hiccups than I expected, but we’re coming on strong,” Kemmer said. “That’s ideally what we want. We were able to still pull off a conference co-championship, but we had some other goals in terms of not losing a game in conference that we didn’t meet. I think we needed some of that adversity to help make us stronger.”
Part of the reason the team was able to overcome the adversity they faced early in the season is their stingy defense. Goalkeeper Shelby Elder and the players in front of her have worked together for 11 shutouts on the season. Kemmer said the team’s success on the defensive side of the ball is because of how well the team’s defenders play off each other
“Our defense has played tremendous, but at the same time any shots that they’ve given up Elder has done an amazing job on,” Kemmer said. “[Against Anderson] she had eight saves but at the same time our defense came up big.”
Offensively, the team has benefited from Ally Brown’s unselfishness with the ball. Brown scored 24 goals and tallied 11 assists in the 2015 campaign. This season, Brown has put the ball in the net 19 times but has already tallied 10 assists to her name. That has helped players like Lauren Gilbert become more involved in the offense. Gilbert has scored 15 goals for the Barons this season and has assisted on six others. Kemmer said she hopes the pair continue to pace the team’s offense.
“I keep looking for them to make things happen,” Kemmer said. “[Brown’s] goals are down from last year, but assists are up and she’s attracting a lot of attention. She’s opening the field with her runs. [Gilbert] and Megan DeWald have scored several goals for us this season where they haven’t last year.”
Another player Kemmer has noticed improved play from on the field is senior Lindsay Buten. She played primarily on defense last season but Kemmer made an adjustment to her spot on the pitch that has paid off for the Lady Barons.
“I moved her into center-mid and she’s creating a lot of runs out of that position,” Kemmer said. “She’s attracting a lot of possible double teams.”
The team’s offensive attack was on display throughout play in the Southern Buckeye Athletic and Academic Conference American Division, where the Lady Barons scored more than five goals in five of their 10 games. The team scored at least three goals in all but two games, both coming against the New Richmond Lady Lions. Kemmer said those tough games were exactly what the team needed to mature mentally
“Having a loss from [New Richmond] and then a tie and having a lot of those conference opponents bring their best games to us really forced us to become stronger,” Kemmer said. “That was key. There’s always something to learn from losses and ties, I think teams need that every now and then to put them in place.”
The Lady Barons return to the field for their sectional tournament opener against Middletown on Tuesday, Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at Amelia High School. The team celebrated senior day with a 7-0 win against Harrison on Saturday, Oct. 8 in what was the final scheduled home game for the Lady Barons. Kemmer said it’s nice for them to have a shot at having the team’s final home game be a tournament victory.
“It’s nice, I think the girls have an awesome game their senior day against Harrison,” Kemmer said. “I told the girls this is probably the last time we ever played there and I felt good having that being their final game since they played so well, and now they’re excited to hopefully have a tournament win on their home field. We’re not overlooking Middletown, but we feel confident being at home with that one last home game.”