Bearden 2, Houston 1
In a matchup of unbeaten teams and nationally ranked programs, sometimes all it takes to decide such a game is a random bounce or big break.
And it seemed like Houston — which lost to Bearden in both the 2021 and 2022 Class AAA state championship games — had that in the early minutes of Wednesday’s Class AAA state quarterfinal against the Lady Bulldogs, when a ball bounded high off the turf at Chattanooga Christian School and over the head of Bearden’s goal keeper Anna Wyatt.
Just a second or two later, though, the good fortune returned to Bearden, as officials scrubbed away the Houston goal because of an offsides penalty.
Houston (16-1-2) still managed to take the lead first and the Lady Mustangs led at the half 1-0 on the strength of Leah Freeman’s goal in the 33rd minute.
Houston managed just three shot on goals Wednesday but cashed in on that one. It was just the seventh goal scored this season against Bearden.
Bearden (20-0-1) peppered the goal all day with keenly crafted shots, but those offerings repelled off posts and crossbars alike. Bearden had 17 shots on goal in the first half against the United Soccer Coaches’ No. 21 team in the country.
“I thought both teams had several chances, and it was a big matchup. We knew their girls and how good they were,” said Bearden coach Ryan Radcliffe. “I felt like in the first half, we hit every part of the goal except the back of the net.
“I thought our level of energy coming out in the game was fantastic. I was hoping we could put one away and our energy wouldn’t die off. It was hot out here today (on the turf).”
Radcliffe didn’t have to deliver any passionate speech at the half. He was pleased with how his team was playing.
So the Lady Bulldogs added 11 more shots on goal in the second half.
One finally got past Houston keeper Laila McNamee when Tennessee commit Liv Stott scored in the 52nd minute to knot the score at 1-all off an assist from Jayla Blue.
Given the status and quality of Houston as an opponent, Radcliffe admittedly started thinking about his team and its energy level in case it had to go to overtime.
Extra time wouldn’t be necessary, however.
Blue scored the go-ahead goal for Bearden in the 74th minute.
“It felt like a championship game. It felt like a championship atmosphere,” Radcliffe said. “I thought the level of play was high for both teams. It was just an unfortunate thing for (Houston) that one team had to go home.
“I’m exhausted, like emotionally,” Radcliffe added. “It was such an up-and-down game. It was that type of atmosphere. I know the girls are, too. But the fun part is: we get to play again tomorrow. We’re not going home yet.”
Bearden, the No. 8 team in the country according to the United Soccer Coaches, will face Franklin (14-1-1) in a semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at Chattanooga Christian School.
Kingston 6, Cascade 0
The Lady Yellow Jackets, as a program, hadn’t played a state-tournament game in 20 years — long before any of their current players were even born. But they played like tournament veterans Wednesday against first-timer Cascade.
Kingston (16-2), which made appearances in 2000 and 2003 without a win, got its first-ever TSSAA girls’ soccer state tournament win with a resounding victory Wednesday at host-site Girls Preparatory School (GPS).
“It means a lot to be here and represented our school and our community,” Emery Conway aid. “We had a pretty big crowd today, and I think that shows how big of a deal this is for us.
“I’m just really grateful for this opportunity and excited to make history for our program.”
Emery Conway scored three goals in the win. And two came early in the first half, as Kingston ultimately constructed a 5-0 lead by halftime. Alex Roney and Emily Benny also scored before the break.
“It felt pretty good to have three goals in our first game at state,” Conway said. “I scored the second goal within the first 20 minutes, and I think that helped us get some momentum going offensively.”
Meanwhile, Cascade (15-3) mustered just one shot on goal all day, and that proved to be a far cry from the 18 that Kingston registered.
Roney added a second goal, scoring off a header in the 69th minute off an assist from Ava Conway, who had three assists in the match.
The Lady Yellow Jackets will play a state semifinal against Liberty Creek (17-4) winner at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at GPS.
Greeneville 8, Dyersburg 2
For the third year in a row at state, the Lady Greene Devils (15-7) got little trouble from Dyersburg, as Abigail Adkins opened the scoring gates for Greeneville in the fourth minute off an assist from Anna Shaw.
Shaw, meanwhile, wound up netting three goals of her own in the first half en route to a 5-0 lead at the break.
Adkins’ second goal came in the 66th minute and gave Greeneville a commanding 8-0 advantage. Greeneville beat Dyersburg 4-1 in a 2022 quarterfinal and 5-0 in a 2021 quarterfinal.
Greeneville has outscored its postseason opponents now 49-7 in a six-game span. On Wednesday, it finished with 31 shots to only seven by Dyersburg (13-8).
Next up, the Lady Greene Devils — who are after their first state title since 2020 — will play Signal Mountain (14-6-1) in a semifinal at 4 p.m. Thursday at host-site Baylor School in Chattanooga. Signal Mountain won 4-3 Wednesday over Hume-Fogg (15-3-2).