Girls soccer in Blount County was well represented last season in Murfreesboro.
Three local teams — Maryville, Alcoa and Seymour — advanced to the 2018 state tournament. Their seasons came to an end with close losses, fueling them with desire to rectify those outcomes this year.
It will be a challenge, as they all have suffered key losses that have left behind holes and question marks heading into the season, which begins on Monday.
However, young talent is serving as a source of optimism for those schools as well as Heritage, William Blount, Greenback and Maryville Christian — a first-year program.
The King’s Academy lacked the players to field a team this season.
Maryville Lady Rebels
Coach: Steve Feather (fourth season)
2018 record: 19-2-3 (lost in first round of Class AAA state tournament)
Key players: Reyna Coston (Sr., MF), Grayson Patterson (Sr., GK), Ella McCallum (Sr., MF), Clara McKinnis (Sr., MF)
Comment/Prognosis: Maryville remains the team to beat in District 4-AAA. The Lady Rebels have advanced to the state tournament three of the last four years, defeating Hardin Valley for district and region titles last year before falling to Houston, 1-0, in the 2018 Class AAA final. While they graduated three All-State players and five college signees, they return the core of their midfield in Coston — a three-time All-State player — as well as fellow starters McCallum and McKinnis. In goal, Patterson will continue to anchor a staunch defense that posted 14 shutouts and allowed less than a goal a game. At the district level, Hardin Valley will pose the greatest challenge while Bearden and Science Hill are the ones to chase on the bigger scale, with both teams returning roughly 15 seniors apiece.
Feather says: “First, we need to start with district. That’s been our goal every year since I’ve been around. Be the best in our area and everything after that is just icing on the cake, which has been a good mantra for us to cling too.”
Heritage Lady Mountaineers
Coach: Andy Byrd (fourth season)
2018 record: 9-9 (lost in District 4-AAA quarterfinals)
Key players: Kaitlyn Burger (Jr., F), Alissa Ramoie (Sr., D), Audrianna Garland (Sr., MF.)
Comment/Prognosis: Heritage will play the underdog role in District 4-AAA. The Lady Mountaineers graduated seven starters from last year’s squad, which placed fourth in the district before getting upset by William Blount, 2-1, in their first game of the postseason. It’s a rebuilding year, especially in a district that features powerhouses such as Maryville. With freshmen stepping into key roles, Byrd will count on seniors Ramoie, a center back, and Garland, a holding defensive midfielder, to provide leadership. Heritage also returns a key offensive weapon in Burger, who scored 42 goals as a freshman and 30 her sophomore year.
Byrd says: “It’s kind of a building year for us, and we return some good players as well. We’ve had freshmen step into some critical spots but, with freshmen playing against older kids, we’re going to have our fair share of errors. I told them, ‘You don’t have to think about filling shoes, just bring your own shoes.’”
Seymour Lady Eagles
Coach: Ron Blaydes (seventh season)
2018 record: 19-4 (lost in Class AA state championship game)
Key players: Tyler Taff (Sr., F), Emma Houser (So., F), Ocean Tetting (Jr., D), Hannah McCay (Sr., D), Lauren Horton (Soph., GK).
Comment/Prognosis: The Lady Eagles graduated three All-State players and lost another key offensive weapon in senior forward Anna Pendleton to a torn ACL. The team that lost last season’s state championship game by one goal is young, with three sophomores and four freshmen earning starting roles. Taff will serve as striker while Houser shifts from left to right winger. The defense is anchored by seasoned players, Tetting and McCay. Horton will look to build off an impressive debut, during which the Lady Eagles posted 13 shutouts.
Blaydes says: “We were so close, and they’ve got a taste of it now. They want to be back. They want to go up there and make some more noise again. The goal is to get there, but we know we have a long season. Our younger players are going to have to really mature.”
Alcoa Lady Tornadoes
Coach: Shane Corley (ninth season)
2018 record: 13-4-1 (lost in Class A state semifinals)
Key players: McKinna Murr (Jr., F), Jada Johnson (Sr., F/MF)
Comment/Prognosis: The Lady Tornadoes have advanced to the state tournament the last two seasons, winning it in 2017 and falling to Signal Mountain in penalty kicks in the semifinals in 2018. They graduated the core of that team, including Peiton Bledsoe — a staple of its midfield who boasted a remarkable soccer IQ. From a leadership standpoint, Corley will count on Murr and Johnson to play significant roles on the young squad. With her athleticism and speed, Johnson helps dictate the pace of the game, helping the Lady Tornadoes get behind defenses. Alcoa will kick off its season with a tough slate of opponents, including Maryville, which Corley said he hopes will prepare the team for district play and potentially another deep run in the postseason.
Corley says: “We feel like we’re going to be pretty good, but I can’t sit here and say were going to be as strong as we were last year or the year before. I don’t know that yet. We’ll have a good idea by the time we get to September how strong the team is going to be. We’re going to gain some experience and some confidence, and I think we’ll be competing in October.”
William Blount Lady Governors
Coach: Perry Hopkins (third season)
2018 record: 6-12-1 (lost in first round of District 4-AAA tournament)
Key players: Alya Mitchell (Sr., GK), Lily Bookout (Jr., D), Shyanne East (Sr., D), McKenna Myers (Soph., MF), Blakely Hopkins (Jr., F)
Comment/Prognosis: William Blount graduated 11 players, but Perry Hopkins said the spine of the team’s formation is “as strong as it’s ever been.” Those key players up the center of the field include veteran goalkeeper Mitchell, shut-down defenders East and Bookout, center midfielder Myers as well as leading scorer, Blakely Hopkins. The goal, Perry Hopkins said, is to get to 10 wins — a feat he said is possible with the amount of skill on the roster.
Perry Hopkins says: “The root group of this team is pretty strong and with them being so young, we’re excited about how they’ll progress through the season and over the next couple years. I would expect them to be better than they were last year for sure. As far as goals, I just want them to be better every time they step onto the field. We fully anticipate winning more games than we won last year.”
Greenback Lady Cherokees
Coach: Rob Fox (sixth season)
2018 record: 7-10 (lost in Region 2-A semifinals)
Key players: Julianne Fox (Jr., MF), Angelita Astudillo (Sr./GK)
Comment/Prognosis: Greenback graduated a strong presence at midfield in Katelin Lemons. Rob Fox said it’s one of the hardest positions to replace, but Julianne Fox along with junior Jenna McConnell and sophomore Kierra Bishop are picking up the slack. Astudillo will return as goalkeeper for the third straight year, giving the Lady Cherokees’ some experience in net. With 18 players on its roster — 12 of which are returning — Rob Fox said Greenback more depth than in past years. Astudillo along with fellow seniors Anna Morris, Cierra Chandler and Jayna Harrison will be tasked with leadership roles as the team aims to return to the region tournament.
Fox says: “We made it to region last year, and I’m telling the girls our expectation is to get back to the region. I think we have the team to do it. We’ve got the talent and we’ve got a lot of depth this year. All 18 girls are capable. We have a really good roster of athletes, so we’re able to field a pretty solid team. As long as we don’t get the injury bug, I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Maryville Christian Lady Eagles
Coach: Jackson Bailey (first season)
2018 record: none
Key players: Kenzie Lewis (Soph., GK), Haley Brown (Soph., MF)
Comment/Prognosis: It’s Maryville Christian’s first season playing girls soccer, and the team is not catching a break. Its preseason has been plagued by injury and illness, likely losing one of 14 players to a back injury. With no seniors on its roster, it’s a young team. Lewis stuck out immediately for her fearless approach in net, earning herself the role as goalkeeper. Bailey said Brown — an attacking midfielder — will serve as a leader. However, only time will tell how Maryville Christian will fare as the new team on the block.
Bailey says: “The potential is great because we have so many people who have just started who are picking up on it really fast, and the ones who have played before just have a lot of skill. The thing we don’t know is the competition level because we’ve never played any of these teams before. We’re going to find out from week to week where we are, and we’ll have to fix the problems as we see them.”