District play was completed last week, with the standings for the seven District 5-AAA schools being solidified.
McMinn County finished first, with a 6-0 district record.
Newcomer East Hamilton finished second with a 5-1 record in its first season as a District 5-AAA school. The Lady Hurricanes’ only loss came to the Lady Cherokees of McMinn.
Cleveland’s record of 4-2 earned it third place this season. The Lady Raiders lost to East Hamilton in overtime and had a penalty kick win over McMinn County reversed due to the fact they played the overtime according to postseason rules, instead of the district bylaws for regular season play.
Soddy-Daisy finished fourth in the district, with a split 3-3 record. The Lady Trojans were defeated for the first time in seven years by Cleveland, and also suffered losses to McMinn County and East Hamilton.
Walker Valley, a team that has seen vast improvements from the 2012 season to 2013, finished fifth with a 2-4 record. The Lady Mustangs topped Ooltewah and Bradley Central this season.
Bradley Central had a rough go of things with district play, with its only district victory coming over Ooltewah in Bradley’s final game of the regular season.
Rounding out the standings are the Lady Owls, who went without a district win this season.
Postseason play will begin Saturday with district play-in games.
The Tribe have a bye for the first game, while East Hamilton will host Ooltewah.
Thursday marks the end of the Lady Raiders’ regular season, which will be against a 12-1-1 Grace Baptist for Cleveland’s senior night.
Postseason action will begin Saturday at 10 a.m., as Cleveland hosts Bradley Central for another round of fierce county rivalry action.
In their regular season match, it was Bradley that held control of things up until a pair of late goals by Cleveland snagged the victory away from the Black and Gold.
“We’re not overlooking Bradley at all — they gave us a battle during the season. They beat us last year in an overtime game for the first time since, I think, 2007,” Lady Raiders coach Andy Byrd explained. “Chrissy is going to bring a great, fired-up group. They have some quality players and their goalkeeper is playing well. We are looking forward to beating them and continuing to sharpen the sword for further on into the playoffs.”
The Bearettes will have to overcome the challenge of playing on a larger pitch, which head coach Chrissy McKinney admits affects many factors of the game.
“Playing on the bigger field is always a challenge for our team. We get to see that when we travel to certain places and sometimes they do well depending on the energy of the day,” McKinney commented. “The biggest challenge, more than fitness and endurance, is the timing of our reactions. We just have to do the best we can on the day of the game.”
According to McKinney, the aspect of facing Cleveland once again hits deeper for her team than if it were just a district postseason game.
“Cleveland is probably a stronger team than us, but there is a lot of passion that flows through the Bradley-Cleveland games that helps give you that extra push. I think this game means more than just district for these girls. Us losing to them during the regular season was heartbreaking and we would like to have a chance to try again,” McKinney explained. “We’re going to really have to work on the cover pressure balance and honing in on shutting down the key playmakers. We did that earlier in the season against Cleveland but it’s a totally different thing now.”
Having just faced the Lady Trojans last week in a 4-1 loss, Walker Valley is gearing up for a return trip to Soddy-Daisy on Saturday at noon.
With the Soddy team fresh in their memories, head coach Nathan Brown expects his team to be better prepared this time around.
“I think we will be prepared for our match against Soddy-Daisy on Saturday. Take nothing away from Soddy, they are a very good team. We will have to be at our best if we want to compete with them, but if we play to our potential, it will be a good game,” Brown stated. “We do have an adjusted game plan that we are working on. Hopefully, we come out and execute everything on Saturday.”
After the district play-in games Saturday, the winner of the East Hamilton-Ooltewah game will take on the winner of the Cleveland-Bradley game.
McMinn County will host the winner of the Soddy-Walker Valley game.
For coach Byrd, the postseason is something that can be taken in increments, and serves as a proving ground for teams.
“At this point in the season you don’t take it a game at a time, you take it a half at a time. Ultimately you have to win on Saturday and Tuesday to advance to the regions. Luckily, we’ve got four halves of soccer this week to sharpen up before region play,” Byrd stated. “I don’t expect an upset with us, but I do expect to see some serious upsets for others on Tuesday. We’re still backed into a corner and mad — I like us being in the corner. If we come up short, then we come up short, but I don’t think we’re quite done yet.”
The winners of Tuesday’s matches will both automatically advance to the Region 3-AAA tournament, with the District 5-AAA championship game being played next Thursday at the home of the higher seed.