By Charles Pulliam
Special to 5Star Preps
MURFREESBORO – Saturday’s Class AA State Championship began as a soccer battle. As field conditions worsened, it ended more like a muddy wrestling match.
The Seymour Lady Eagles fell 3-2 in two overtimes in the school’s first state-title shot against Beech at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
Field conditions diminished so badly that the other state title matches were moved from the main stadium field to an adjacent field at the complex.
Still, Seymour (19-4) built leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but the Lady Buccaneers kept finding answers. And when Jill Fuqua scored in the 96th minute of the second OT for the first lead for Beech (16-7-1), it was enough to hold on for the title.
“It was definitely a battle out there,” Seymour junior striker Tyler Taff said. “I’ve never been this muddy before in my life.
“I feel like both teams fought really hard and I’m very proud of what we did to get here … We’re all just super upset. We really thought we could win this.”
After a pair of Division II championships extended late into Friday night, the main stadium field was chewed up to open Saturday’s title tilt. Rain all week and consistent showers in Murfreesboro didn’t help the developing mud pit. And to top it off, the physicality of Saturday’s match ratcheted up several notches midway through the second half.
“They were very physical,” Seymour coach Ron Blaydes said of Beech. “I’m not going to blame anything, but it seemed like a lot of it went their way and not our way and that was very frustrating. Our girls were getting pushed, and hit and shoved. I can’t place blame on anything, though.”
“I’m cleated up to the max,” said Taff, who managed two shots despite being marked by a defender at all times. “It was on both sides, but it was just a battle. I’d say it was definitely one of the most aggressive games I’ve ever played in.”
The Lady Eagles also collected three uncharacteristic yellow cards to Beech’s one over the final 30 minutes of regulation and overtime.
Lady Buccaneers coach John Ferguson, whose team made its state debut this year, joked that he offered officials $50 to play on another field before the first whistle.
“I would like to play this game again on a real field,” he said. “There was very little that happened here that approximates a soccer game, so my hats off to Seymour because they played hard. They were tough and aggressive and every bit the inch of a state finalist.
“They should be here, we were just fortunate to get that last goal.”
Beech standout Kendra Mueller fired in two long balls that were just out of reach of Seymour keeper Lauren Horton. Her first strike came in the 60th to tie the contest at 1-1.
Emma Houser gave Seymour a 2-1 advantage with a tally in the 69th after Beech keeper Natasia Jones dropped a save made on a Taff shot from the left side. The wet and muddy ball slipped out of Jones’ grasp and rolled to her left, where Houser converted the rebound from about six yards out.
However, that 2-1 Seymour edge lasted less than two minutes. Mueller converted her second goal on a long free kick that sailed high to the upper right corner of the goal for a 2-2 tie in the 70th where it stayed through the end fo regulation.
The Lady Eagles Emily Glaspie had a low shot stopped by Jones in the 77th and misfired wide on another look in the 86th before Beech took control behind Mueller’s size and athleticism.
Midway through the second 10-minute overtime period, Beech had back-to-back corner kicks – they held a 16-5 advantage on corners for the match. After the second ball was lobbed into the box, Hailey Burroughs had a look for the Lady Buccaneers get swatted away by a leaping Horton who stretched for the save. Mueller recovered the rebound and scooted the ball to Fuqua for an open look and the eventual game-winner.
Horton made six saves as Beech owned a 23-14 advantage on shots.
Ferguson said it was the fourth postseason extra time win for the Lady Buccaneers. He said that experience was vital.
“That’s our secret weapon,” Ferguson said. “We have kind of been there and done this a bit. I think early on, Seymour ran past us and ran past us. I had to remind my girls to be close enough to pressure them and when that happened, it brought the game back down to a more level playing field.”
Anna Pendelton scored the match’s first goal on a deflection in the 31st for the Lady Eagles.
Blaydes thanked the school and the entire county for the support.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the girls and more proud of being able to coach them to this point,” he said. “We have come a long ways in the last two years … and we’re building the program as we go.”
Seymour showed well all week in Murfreesboro. They blasted McMinn Central 7-0 in the state opener Wednesday before defeating a young Nolensville team 2-0 in the state semifinals Thursday.
“It means a a lot to get here,” Taff said. “We worked very hard. We practiced early in the morning and late at night and we felt like we were prepared for this. It’s upsetting not to win, but I’m so proud of all of us.”