By Mike Blackerby
Sometimes, the most difficult thing for a coach to do is get a highly touted team to live up to great expectations.
Maryville High School fell just short of its state-championship aspirations in 2018, but Lady Rebels coach Steve Feather had no qualms about the way the season transpired.
Despite losing 1-0 to perennial powerhouse Houston in the quarterfinal round of the state Class AAA soccer tournament, Feather could take solace that the Lady Rebels laid everything on the line, just like they had all season.
“We played them as dead even as you could in the first half,” explained Feather.
“But when you have three girls on their frontline who are SEC signees, eventually they were going to put one in.”
With the teams deadlocked in a scoreless battle late in the second half, Ole Miss signee Jenna Kemp finally scored in the 63rd minute on a shot from center of the box to give the Lady Mustangs the win.
“We felt good knowing we went out trying to beat the best team in the state,” said Feather, the 5Star Preps girls soccer coach of the year.
Other than defeating Houston, Maryville lived up to its lofty expectations and then some this season.
The Lady Rebels (19-2-3) won district and region titles and ended up ranked No. 31 in the nation and No. 3 in Tennessee by Top Drawer Soccer.com.
Both of their losses were to Houston, which went on to claim its third state championship in the last four years.
Feather said his girls had targets on their backs almost every time they stepped on the pitch.
“One of the reasons this season was so rewarding was each game, throughout the entire season with the exception of Houston, each team was chasing us,” he explained.
“This has been a special senior class and I’ve been lucky to be a part of it. I described myself as being an ancillary part of it. I’ve had some groups in the past where I’ve had to insert myself in it – but this wasn’t one of them.”
Feather said the 2018 team leaves a dazzling legacy:
- The senior class made it to the state tournament three of four seasons and was eliminated by the eventual state champion each year.
- Maryville’s seniors won 80.7 percent of their games, going 66-17-11 during their four years.
- This was the first time that the Lady Rebels ended the season nationally ranked.
“This has been a great group of girls,” said Feather. “It really was as rewarding a season as I’ve ever had.”