CLASS AAA SEMIFINALS
Bearden 3, Franklin 1
A three-peat is still on the table for the Bearden Lady Bulldogs.
Jayla Blue scored 18 seconds into the semifinal against Franklin. Nyla Blue scored on a header just before the half.
And Bearden broke loose of a 1-all tie with Franklin and into the Saturday Class AAA state championship match against Ravenwood (11-5). That contest will be at 4 p.m. Saturday at CHI Memorial Stadium in Chattanooga.
For Bearden, Saturday’s season finale will be a chance to keep its championship trend going. The Lady Bulldogs have only reached four state finals (2006-07, 2021-22) — but won all four.
Moreover, Bearden hasn’t lost since the 2020 state semifinals. Bearden went 22-0-1 in the 2021 championship season and then followed that with a 24-0 mark last fall. They’ve been the hunted all season long again in 2023. It’s currently ranked No. 8 in the country, per the United Soccer Coaches poll.
“It’s always great to be in the finals and being the best team at states. It means that everyone its going to bring their best game and make the game interesting. This makes things memorable,” Nyla Blue told 5Star Preps. “Again, being a nationally ranked team means that everyone is coming to try and debunk you.”
Bearden (21-0-1) has not faced Ravenwood this season. Ravenwood stunned one-loss Oakland, 2-1, in Wednesday’s quarterfinals and then beat two-loss Collierville in overtime in Thursday’s semifinal round, 1-0.
Franklin (14-2-1) tried to do its own upset work against Bearden, scoring in the 15th minute on an own goal. But Tennessee commit Nyla Blue’s header off an assist by Maci Ritzman gave Bearden a 2-1 lead in the 39th minute.
And then fellow Tennessee commit Liv Stott added a third goal for Bearden in the 51st minute.
“We have been working on corners all season, so it was only a matter of time before I got my head behind it,” Nyla Blue told 5Star Preps. “Maci Ritzman placed the ball right where my head was, and I was able to finish it.
“I think everyone felt the exhilaration from that goal and gave us the fuel that we needed going into the second half.”
CLASS AA SEMIFINALS
Greeneville 3, Signal Mountain 0
After semifinal-round losses in 2021 and 2022, the Greeneville girls’ soccer program will play again for a state championship.
The Lady Greene Devils (16-7) — which won titles in 2015, 2016, 2019 and 2020 — will vie for their fifth title in program history at 1:30 p.m. Saturday against either South Gibson or Station Camp. The match will be played at CHI Memorial Stadium in Chattanooga.
In mid-September, Greeneville stood with a 6-6 record, as it had played a monstrous schedule against bigger classification teams and state powers like Bearden, Houston and Farragut.
But it entered Thursday’s semifinal against Signal Mountain (14-7-1) a perfect 7-0 in the postseason, having beaten those seven opponents by a 49-7 margin.
“The whole purpose of playing those hard teams is so we can learn from them and get better,” said Greeneville’s Anna Shaw. “Coach (Jerry) Graham schedules those games intentionally to make us stronger. We have taken the lessons we learned from the hard games and applied them in the postseason.”
No doubt — and Shaw made sure that playoff trend of dominance continued Thursday.
A gritty and fiery athlete on both the pitch and basketball court at Greeneville, Shaw finished with two goals and an assist in the win over Signal Mountain. Her goal in the 32nd minute gave Greeneville a 1-0 lead. She assisted on Gabi Stayton’s goal in the 62nd minute that put Greeneville up 2-0.
And Shaw all but sealed the win with a rocketed shot into the left side of the net in the 68th minute.
Greeneville finished with 17 shots on goal to Signal Mountain’s nine. Goal keeper Lily Evatt made five saves in Greeneville’s clean defensive sheet.
Now, Greeneville’s seniors will get one more game to cap their prep careers with an exclamation mark.
“I would not have it any other way,” Shaw said. “This is the game we have been working so hard for the entire season. We are here because we deserve it. It feels amazing.”
CLASS A SEMIFINALS
Liberty Creek 2, Kingston 1
All tied with roughly 10 minutes to go, Kingston came oh-so close to reaching its first-ever state final.
But Liberty Creek got a goal from Adalyn Medina in the 71st minute to break the 1-all tie, and that score ultimately held up and sent Liberty Creek — a new school that opened in 2022 in Gallatin, Tenn. — to its first-ever state final instead.
Kingston had three shots in the final eight minutes to try and tie. But Liberty Creek keeper Addie Taylor made two saves and another Kingston shot was deflected away.
Kingston finished its season with a 16-3 mark and having earned its first state tournament win in program history on Wednesday.
The Lady Yellow Jackets looked poised to add a second victory this week in Chattanooga when it took a 1-0 lead Thursday against Liberty Creek. Ava Conway’s goal in the 21st minute gave Kingston the early lead.
Liberty Creek (18-4) tied Kingston in the 50th minute and had 14 shots on goal to Kingston’s nine. Liberty Creek will face Merrol Hyde (18-5) at 11 a.m. Saturday in the Class A Championship in Chattanooga.