Soccer: Brentwood takes 12-AAA championship in 'Battle of the Woods'

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Soccer – Brentwood vs. Ravenwood, District 12-AAA championship

The Brentwood girls soccer team’s to-do list became shorter on Thursday night.

And so did their travel itinerary.

Fueled by another stout performance from their suffocating defense and a couple of timely bursts of offense, the undefeated and top-seeded Lady Bruins captured the District 12-AAA tournament title with a 2-1 victory over rival Ravenwood on a chilly night at Independence’s home field.

Brentwood sophomore Haley Hannah scored a tie-breaking goal in the 55th minute to put the Lady Bruins (15-0) on top 2-1 — their first lead of the night — and that advantage proved to be enough for the Brentwood defense, which yielded a goal in the match’s opening minute but nothing after that.

The victory assures the Lady Bruins of a home match in next week’s regionals. It also allowed them to check off another objective on their list, as the District 12-AAA regular-season champs and now a tournament title to add to their trophy case as well. 

But their biggest goals are still on the table.

“Winning the state championship — that’s the end-game for us,” said Brentwood’s Elle Scott, one of six seniors on the roster. “But for now, we’re just taking it one game at a time. Each game matters in its own way, and it’s definitely big for us to have another home game, especially for the seniors.”

Brentwood will host the District 11-AAA runner-up in the upcoming regional, while Ravenwood will be on the road against the 11-AAA champions.

As for Thursday night’s contest, it wasn’t just a postseason installment of the Battle of the Woods. It was also a battle of the best. Brentwood and Ravenwood entered the tourney as the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds, respectively, and the championship contest between the rivals was just as intense and hard-fought as most expected it to be.

The match featured a pair of outstanding goalies — Brentwood’s Kate Devine and Ravenwood’s Faith Vanston — and they each made a series of shining plays throughout the night to spearhead the strong defensive efforts by each squad.

But there were a few offensive highlights, too, the biggest of which proved to be Hannah’s go-ahead goal near the midway mark of the second half. Brentwood head coach Kersta Mello said she has come to expect those type of clutch plays from the sophomore.

“She’s a worker bee for us,” said Mello. “She just does not quit.”

After taking the lead, Brentwood was able to maintain control of the ball during much of the remainder of the game, allowing Ravenwood very few opportunities to attack.

“I think we did a pretty good of adjusting to the style of play that we were facing tonight,” said Scott. “And that’s something we’ve been able to do that has really helped us a lot this year.”

Mello said that being undefeated at this stage of the season can be both a blessing and a curse.

“I think there are some dangers that come with that,” she said. “But we’re just taking things game-by-game and day-by-day — and heck, sometimes, minute-by-minute.”

Such was the case on Thursday.

Ravenwood jumped on the board early — extremely early, in fact — when junior Marcela Forrero Pretto got behind the Brentwood defense and converted from about 20 yards out in the opening minute. The goal ignited the Ravenwood fans and provided an early spark for the Lady Raptors.

“(That goal) showed that Marcela was ready to go from the blow of the whistle,” said Ravenwood coach Brandon Mead. “It was a beautiful start for us … something we really needed to do against a great team like Brentwood.”

Ravenwood maintained the 1-0 lead until Brentwood’s Hayley Howard tied the game with a goal in the 22nd minute. From there, both defenses came up with one big play after the next until Hannah ultimately broke through with the game-winner.

The Lady Bruins, who have played lock-down defense all season, said that the early goal by Ravenwood provided a good test of their mental toughness.

“It wasn’t ideal,” said Scott with a smile. “But it happened earlier this year against Summit, so we had some experience in that situation. And we were able to (overcome) it.”

Mello said she was pleased that her team was able to “stay composed in a moment when it would have been easy” to get rattled. She also said she was excited for her players to see them celebrating a district title.

“(Winning the tournament) was one of the many goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year,” she said.

Mead, meanwhile, said he believes Ravenwood won’t let the loss linger in their minds. He said his team has shown plenty of resilience this season, noting that the Lady Raptors bounced back in strong fashion after a season-opening loss to Class AA contender Nolensville and after a regular-season loss to Brentwood.

“There’s lots of soccer to be played,” he said. “Hopefully, we can come out and have a great showing at regionals … and maybe play Brentwood again.”

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