KNOXVILLE — Bearden High School’s girls soccer team has faced its share of adversity for the last seven games, as it played without BHS head coach Ryan Radcliffe.
Radcliffe wasn’t around Saturday night, Oct. 20, to see the Lady Bulldogs notch their biggest win of the year. He’s on paid administrative leave while waiting for a school matter to be resolved.
Though absent, Radcliffe’s team stayed hot and punched a return ticket to this week’s Class AAA State Tournament with a 3-0 victory versus rival Hardin Valley Academy in a state sectional match at BHS’s Turner-Allende Field.
The Lady Bulldogs look to reverse what was a short stay in the midstate in 2017.
“It feels great to go back to state,” said BHS junior forward Abby Brewer, who scored twice to help Bearden (18-4-1) make it back to high school soccer’s grand stage. “I think everyone had the expectation coming in this season that we were going to go back.
“It’s just a great feeling and I’m proud of everybody on this team.”
Players such as Brewer, who has 28 goals this season, senior goalkeeper Maggie Jones (who made 14 saves against the Lady Hawks, including 12 in the second half) and Emily Carlevato (who had a goal and an assist against HVA), have made things easy for assistant coach Ally Hale, who is running the team.
“When we got here (as coaches), I had three girls who had never stepped foot on a varsity field. You have to tip your hat and give credit to my girls. We were a different team.” Hardin Valley head coach Jessie Stephens said about her Lady Hawks (12-8-3).
“I’ve always been a quiet assistant coach,” Hale said. “I was a hot mess when all this started going on but I know that we’re all in this together. The girls give me advice and that really helps me.”
Hale may not be a vocal leader but she’s been challenging Jones.
“I’ve been getting in her face,” Hale said. “I’ve been telling her that today’s the day that Maggie Jones has her best game.”
Jones responded in a big way.
“I was really feeling the pressure in the second half,” Jones said. “They definitely didn’t let up at all.”
Jones had to make two saves in the first half as offense came at a premium. But after halftime, it was a different story as
“We came out in the second half and we wanted to get after her,” “We wanted to put pressure on her and make her work. And she worked.
“You just have to tip your hat to her.”
Bearden took a 1-0 lead when Brewer tallied in the 27th minute as she converted a shot after a collision with HVA senior goalkeeper Taylor Mauck a short distance from the net.
“It just fell the right way,” Brewer said.
She would make it 2-0 in the 55th minute as she tallied off an assist from Carlevato, who closed out the scoring a short time later when she knocked in a penalty kick.
Despite seeing her squad’s season come to an end, Stephens wasn’t disappointed.
“When I got here, everybody had high expectations and Hardin Valley has been stacked for years, but those players are gone. This didn’t feel like a 3-0 loss.”