“I’ve been coaching, and I’ve been around the high school soccer scene for 18 years, and this is the best high school soccer team I’ve ever seen,” said Kristen Lyons, Farragut girls soccer head coach, after her team dropped a 7-0 decision to the Lady Bulldogs at BHS’s Turner-Allender Field/Radcliffe-Kelly Soccer Complex Thursday evening, Sept. 8. “… I go watch club teams, I go watch travel (teams) and I watch collegiate-level showcases.”
Though Bearden won the Class AAA state championship last fall with an unbeaten 23-0-1 record, “They’re way better than they were last year,” Lyons said.
Leading in shots 23-5, and in shots-on-goal at 13-3, Bearden (7-0-0) got two goals from its All-American forward and leader, senior tri-captain Brinley Murphy, and led 5-0 at halftime after the Lady Ads (4-3-2 after the loss) held the powerful Lady Bulldogs to one goal for almost 28 minutes to start the match.
About being ranked No. 1 nationally, “As a coach it’s two-fold,” Bearden head coach Ryan Radcliffe said.
While saying “it’s a huge honor, it’s awesome,” he added, “As a coach you’re kind of like, ‘Oh gosh, you don’t want another, bigger target on your back than being the defending state champions.”
However, “the girls enjoy it — and there was a lot of talk around school about it today,” Radcliffe said.
“… Who doesn’t want to try and take out the No. 1 team in the country?” he added. “I don’t think people know, but we were ranked (No. 1 nationally) a little (while) last year.
“I love that it kinda went under the radar,” as Bearden eventually finished ranked No. 4 nationally in 2021.
Radcliffe said he told his team during a recent practice, “If you want to continue the title (run) … we’re going to have to change; things are going to have to be different.”
Individually against Farragut, “You rely on your All-American, and that’s who Brinley is,” Radcliffe said about Murphy. “You saw her work rate that she puts out there; I think we feed off that.
“Then you see your goalkeeper making a save like she did there at the end to preserve a 7-0 shutout,” he added about senior Peyton Huber.
“A lot of great individual performances from freshman Jayla (Blue) stepping up there. And then I thought her sister, Nyla, had a huge role today. I think both of those two played a big game, and then our captains (Murphy, Huber and Becca Roth) led us very well.”
A roughly 25-yard goal from senior Mary Beth Sheringham in the game’s fourth minute made it 1-0.
Jayla Blue kept ball possession in traffic, then went left and scored on a sharp angle shot making it 2-0 in the 28th minute, assisted by Roth and junior Breana Mendoza.
After keeping junior Alivia Stott’s corner kick alive in the box, Murphy scored from 10 yards out in the 36th minute.
Less than a minute later, Halle Bibee converted a Stott corner into a goal. “Halle Bibee’s coming through six players … just putting her head down at hip height to get a goal,” Lyons said in praising the BHS sophomore.
Mendoza’s pass from the right side found an open Morgan Hellman in the middle, as the senior scored from 10 yards out late in the first half. Murphy tapped home the sixth goal in the 52nd minute. Stott nailed a free kick goal from 25 yards out in the 72nd minute.
Individually for Farragut, Lyons praised freshman right fullback Kennedy Dade “who hasn’t really played varsity yet,” but “handled herself very, very well.
I thought Parker Willis had an outstanding game,” the coach added about her junior defender. “Our midfield was a little bit hit-and-miss in the first half, but we switched our system up in the second half and everyone stepped up and played to the last minute.”