HARDIN VALLEY --- Jessie Stephens knows her first task as Hardin Valley Academy’s new girls soccer head coach will be to provide some stability for what has been one of the county’s top programs.
“My senior girls have had three coaches in four years,” said Stephens, long-time assistant coach for Farragut High School’s girls and boys programs, and former FHS All-State defender (junior, 2004) and All-State forward (senior, 2005) who recently was named to replace Nick Bradford.
“I’m just really excited to give back to the game. The game has given a lot to me,” she added.
A two-time All-South Atlantic Conference defender at Carson-Newman University (2008, 2009), “I love the game and I love working with the younger players,” Stephens said. “At Hardin Valley, they’ve always had a core group of talent. They have all the pieces in place but they’ve never been able to get over the hump consistently.
“This is a great opportunity for me to step up.”
Dennis Lindsay, long-time Admirals skipper in girls soccer, coached Stephens as a player then mentored her as an assistant coach.
“I think she’ll be one of the better coaches in the state,” he said. “... In my last three or four years she was doing just about all the coaching. She’s very good with X’s an O’s.”
Establishing sustained success may be tough in a soccer district once dubbed the “District of Death” by players and coaches, which features the likes of Farragut and Maryville.
“I look forward to the challenge of being a head coach in this district because you play against the best of the best,” Stephens said. “... It prepares you to play against the Memphis teams like Houston and the Nashville teams.”
A first-grade teacher at Northshore Elementary School, Stephens, 30, spent the last two years as an assistant to Admirals boys skipper Ray Dover.
In two seasons, Bradford posted a 25-9-5 record but never reached the Region 2-AAA tournament.
“They had those two years when they went to the state and I want to build a program that can have and sustain that kind of success consistently,” Stephens said. “I want these girls to establish their own traditions and their own legacy.”