Both Cleveland and McMinn County battled hard and left everything on the field, ultimately forcing the championship to be decided via PKs.
Unfortunately for the Lady Raiders, the Lady Cherokees beat them 2-1 in those penalty kicks, claiming the highly coveted district championship
“This is why you play and this is why you train in July. Sometimes things just don’t shine on you, and it didn’t shine on us at the end. We practiced those things, perhaps a little too much,” Cleveland coach Andy Byrd said. “We gave it our best, but the most important thing is that tonight we got better. We increased our ability tonight as a team.”
The last time these two teams met they found themselves locked in a dead heat — Thursday night was no different.
Lady Raiders goalkeeper Jenna Scoggins and Tribe keeper Mayson Liner came up big in goal for their respective teams throughout the entirety of the game.
Coach Byrd also saw impressive play coming from both his veteran and younger players.
“We came up a little short, but we had good play all over the field,” Byrd stated. “We had great play coming off Sohara Perez, great leadership by Calli Baker, Sam DeBien and Kenzie Harris up top giving it everything they’ve got, and defenders coming off the sidelines coming in and playing great. We had our young kids go in and do some good things tonight.”
According to Byrd, despite the disadvantage of being the away team, Cleveland was able to force McMinn to play a bit differently.
“When you travel you’re down a goal and that’s how it ends. If you come in and stick to the game plan, which we did tonight — we slowed down their attack and they looked completely different than they did against Soddy. We had some quick counters coming and that’s our style of play,” Byrd explained.
The teams played two 10-minute overtimes and then went to two five-minutes periods with golden goals. Since the score remained tied at 0-0, it all came down to penalty kicks.
On their second PK attempt Lauren Cunningham was able to get one into the back of the net.
Sohara Perez notched the lone PK for Cleveland immediately after.
Mia Kesler got what turned out to be the Tribe’s winning PK next, as the Lady Raiders’ next two attempts came up short.
Despite the loss, Cleveland still has the Region 3-AAA semifinals on the horizon.
Tuesday evening, the Lady Raiders will travel to Cookeville to take on the Lady Cavaliers. If Cleveland can come away with the win, the Lady Raiders will have earned themselves a spot in the TSSAA sectionals.
“We played Cookeville earlier on and played a great game with them. We’ve developed more as a team since then,” Byrd said.
McMinn, on the other hand, will host Warren County, which lost 8-0 to Cookeville Thursday night.
“Luckily, we’ve got a chance to take on McMinn County again if we take care of business on Tuesday at Cookeville,” Byrd commented. “If you take care of business on Tuesdays in the playoffs, you get the berth.”