KNOXVILLE --- Bearden High School’s girls soccer team has reached the Class AAA State Tournament in each of the last two seasons. But the Lady Bulldogs haven’t brought home a state championship in more than a decade.
When preseason workouts began, head coach Ryan Radcliffe reminded his squad of that.
“I think these girls are hungry after losing in the state semifinals the last two years. I think they want more,” said Radcliffe, who guided the Bearden boys team to a second state title in four years last spring. “It’s been 12 years since the girls have won one and that’s the first thing I told them when we started practicing.”
The Lady Bulldogs, who went 19-5-1 in 2018 and made a second consecutive perfect run through the District 2-AAA portion of their schedule, certainly have the experience, depth and talent to make another deep postseason run and possibly claim their first state title in what seems like an eternity for them.
For Radcliffe, this year might bring a challenge, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s also a challenge he faced with the boys in the spring.
“This team is going to be a lot like (the 2019) boys team,” Radcliffe said. “We have so much talent and so much depth that you’ll probably see a different lineup out there every other game and you won’t see girls getting a lot of minutes.
“That will be good, because last year, we had some injuries that really caught up to us. But the thing is, we need the girls to think about what’s best for the team and not necessarily what’s best for them as individuals. We need to find our identity and that’s my challenge as a coach, trying to find a way to give everybody enough playing time. It’s a challenge, but that’s a good problem to have.
As a coach, Radcliffe, who is in his sixth season with the Lady Bulldogs, has a team featuring
not only a talented cast of
returning veteran players but a freshman class with plenty of
“We have a lot of good people back and we also have the most talented group of freshmen that we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “We’re going to have plenty of depth and it all just depends on how they all play together.”
Top returners for the Lady Bulldogs include: Abby Brewer (an all-state forward); Taylor Cross (an all-district and all-region forward); Hailey Cartt (a senior midfielder, who was also an all-region and all-district standout); Hannah Wilson (another highly decorated senior midfielder); Carley Scott (senior, defender); Blythe Lundberg (senior, defender); Harlie Howard (a sophomore defender who started as a freshman last season); Kailyn Scott (sophomore, defender); Janie Lewis (junior, midfielder); Alex Smith (senior, forward) and Alyssa Corbitt (sophomore, defender).
The one area where Bearden doesn’t have an experienced veteran is in goal, but Radcliffe said he has two talented goalkeepers competing for the starting job: senior Megan Armstrong and freshman Peyton Huber.
Armstrong returns to the program, but didn’t get much playing time in 2018.
“They’re both pretty good,” Radcliffe said. “Both have strengths and both have
Huber is part of a talented group of high school rookies that also includes forwards Brinley Murphy (a two-sport athlete who helped lead West Valley Middle School’s basketball team to a Knox County Middle School Basketball Conference Championship last winter) and Becca Roth, who Radcliffe said has been impressive in early workouts.
The Lady Bulldogs travel to Hardin Valley Academy for a showdown beginning at 7 p.m., tonight (Thursday, Aug. 22).