Perfect repeat; national champs?

Ending 24-0, BHS girls soccer gets past Houston for another state title; unbeaten last 48

  • FInishing a perfect 24-0 season as repeat TSSAA Division I-AAA state champions — and maybe national champions — Bearden High School girls soccer players pose with their state title plaque alongside their coaches on the Red Wolves Stadium field in Chattanooga where the Lady Dawgs outlasted previously unbeaten Houston (18-1-1) 3-1, taking down the Lady Mustangs in the state title game Saturday afternoon, Oct. 29 — for a second straight season on the same field. - Alan Sloan

  • Junior defender Rylie Lucas, who scored a goal in the title game, displays her emotions while hugging Bearden senior Brinley Murphy (7), a forward who scored a program record 110 goals during her career. - Alan Sloan

CHATTANOOGA — Their perfect season was complete at 24-0, their Class AAA state titles increased to two straight and their unbeaten streak grew to 48 games spanning two years — and a national championship perhaps looms in the near future.

Head coach Ryan Radcliffe and his Bearden Lady Bulldogs girls soccer team handled the enormous pressure of high expectations with a No. 1 national ranking, completing their mission in Red Wolves Stadium Saturday, Oct. 29.

Getting a tough challenge from then unbeaten Houston (18-0-1 entering the game), Bearden jumped ahead and held on for a 3-1 state-title repeating victory — by the same score and same opponent it beat last season to win the crown.

“I don’t think they understand the history that they just made,” Radcliffe said about his players.

“At the end of the day, we were just like, no matter what, we’re going to have more heart than them, and we’re going to prove it and show it out here on the field,” said senior forward Brinley Murphy, last season’s Gatorade Player of the Year in Tennessee whose goal in the 57th minute gave BHS a 2-0 lead — and added to her all-time goal-scoring lead in program history with 110.

About being ranked No. 1 in the nation and trying to also capture a national championship as voted by United Soccer Coaches, “Honestly, that was one of my goals when we started the season. ... That’s a big deal,” Murphy said.

However, “we haven’t talked about it that much, honestly,” she added.

Senior goalkeeper Peyton Huber was a big reason why Bearden allowed just three goals in ’22 (BHS scored 137).

“You don’t even understand: I’m very relieved,” Huber said about overcoming the pressure to be one of the best teams in the nation each week.

Earning a penalty kick after a Houston foul inside the Mustang’ 18-yard box, Bearden junior defender Rylie Lucas converted the game’s first goal with 17:04 left in the first half.

After freshman forward Jayla Blue’s shot from about 15 yards out hit the right post, Murphy controlled the deflection and pumped home the game’s second goal from 5 yards out with 23:39 to play.

Houston earned its own penalty kick to get back into the match a few minutes later. Lady Mustang Lauren Fang converted with 16:58 remaining to slice the lead in half, 2-1.

However, just two minutes later, Dawgs junior midfielder Breana Mendoza controlled the ball along the Houston baseline near the goal before unwinding on a sharp-angled goal on the left side, from 10 yards out, putting the Lady Dawgs back ahead by two goals, 3-1.

In the two minutes before her goal, with the Bearden lead cut to 2-1, “It was a definitely tense, we were all a little anxious,” Mendoza said. “We knew we wanted to put it away, so it just took some extra grit and some extra determination.

“It’s feels so good for it all to pay off in the end,” she added.

“I thought we dug deep, especially the last 15 to 20 (minutes). A huge goal there by Breana,” Radcliffe said. “... A lot of weight off the girls’ shoulders, and our shoulders, there at the end.”

Jayla Blue, Bearden’s second leading scorer this season, joined her older sister, junior midfielder Nayla Blue, in 2022.

About playing hard for the seniors, “I had to leave it all out there for them,” Jayla said.

“I think it’s been great to play on this team with my sister,” Nyla said.

While praising Murphy, “No. 3 (Jayla) is equally as good,” said Houston head coach David Wolff, who has won 14 state titles combined at Houston and Ridgeway high schools.