BY JESSE SMITHEY
Three area high school soccer teams played in the TSSAA state semifinals Thursday in Chattanooga.
Two will play for state championships in the same city Saturday.
Here’s more on Thursday’s semifinals.
STAGE SET FOR REPEAT BY UNBEATEN BEARDEN
Bearden was not going to be denied a spot in the state final.
Brinley Murphy made sure of that.
There was too much at stake Thursday night: the unbeaten season, the chance at a repeat — and a No. 1 ranking in the nation.
The reigning 5Star Preps Player of the Year scored on a header in the second minute to give Bearden the early lead, and Murphy added three more goals in the second half of a 7-0 win over Station Camp in the Class AAA state semifinals played on campus at Baylor School in Chattanooga.
Bearden (23-0) will attempt to win its second consecutive state championship at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Chattanooga against a familiar opponent: Houston (18-0-1). Bearden beat Houston, 3-1, in last year’s state championship to cap a 23-0-1 season and to earn the program’s third title over all and first since repeating in 2006-07.
The 2022 match will be played at the Chattanooga Red Wolves Stadium.
“I am so beyond proud of this whole team. All 42 of the players on this team have worked so hard all season, putting in extra time to get to this point,” said Murphy of getting back to the season finale.
“We knew it would be challenging because of the target on our backs, but we fought back. Station Camp is a really good team and we knew we had to start early on them and we were able to tonight. We are not done yet and are focusing on preparing for the game Saturday.”
Houston got into this year’s final via an easy win Thursday, too: a 4-0 win over Siegel (18-4-2). Ellett Smith, a sophomore midfielder, is Houston’s top player this week, as she scored three in Houston’s win Wednesday over Knoxville West and two in the win over Siegel.
Bearden has the best player in the state, though, in Murphy — the reigning Gatorade State Player of the Year.
Bearden led 3-0 at the break Thursday, and Murphy’s header in the 48th minute off an assist from Alivia Stott pushed the lead to 4-0. That same duo connected just two minutes later, and Murphy got her hat trick.
Murphy scored on an assist from Bre Mendoza with 20 minutes remaining, giving Bearden an insurmountable 6-0 lead.
CUMBERLAND GAP ADVANCES TO ITS FIRST-EVER TITLE MATCH
Consider the Cumberland Gap soccer team a quick study.
Two years ago, the Lady Panthers made their first trip to a Class 1A state soccer tournament and was one-and-done.
This time, though, Cumberland Gap will play for a state title in Trip No. 2.
Aly Ramsey scored a pair of first-half goals Thursday — giving her 175 for her career — and Allyson Brock added a goal just before the half, as Cumberland Gap ousted Chattanooga School for Arts & Sciences, 3-0, on campus at Chattanooga Christian.
Cumberland Gap (19-1-2) will play defending Class 1A champion Merrol Hyde (19-2-1) at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Chattanooga Red Wolves Stadium.
“The feeling is definitely unreal,” Ramsey said. “I’m so proud of this team and how far we’ve come since the beginning of this season. We’ve seen so much progress all around, especially with some of the younger players. Having never been to state, they’ve fulfilled their roles so well. The same for the subs, we’ve seen no drop off when subbing players in and they’ve made a difference.
“We’ve all played together our whole lives, having this opportunity to end our season this way means so much to all of us. Despite some injuries we’ve seen during the season and some other difficulties, our girls have been resilient and over came the odds. Our coaches and supporters have been so encouraging, as well. We couldn’t be here without them. Additionally, we want to make sure we give all the honor and praise to God, who gave us the ability to play the game we love. At the end of the day, having this opportunity means so much, but being able to glorify God on the field means so much more.”
GREENEVILLE OUSTED IN CLASS AA STATE SEMIFINALS
For the second year in a row, Greeneville had its championship hopes dashed in the state semifinals by Page.
Page got them 1-0 last year en route to its state championship.
On Thursday, Page routed Greeneville, 5-1. Anna Shaw scored Greeneville’s goal in the 60th minute. But that only trimmed the deficit to 4-1, and Page (22-0-2) negated Shaw’s goal just three minutes later to re-establish a four-goal lead.
Greeneville’s season concluded with a 14-11 record.