BRENTWOOD – Marcela Forero Pretto scored in the 74th minute and Sarah Kate Rath punctuated a Ravenwood High School win with another goal less than two minutes later as the Lady Raptors clinched the Region 6-AAA soccer championship Thursday with a 2-0 win over Franklin.
Ravenwood, the defending Class AAA state champions, earned the right to host Saturday’s sectional contest against Gallatin with a state berth up for grabs. Franklin will travel to Region 5-AAA champ Hendersonville, which also won 2-0 Thursday against Gallatin.
“We’re just so excited. This is not over for us,” said Pretto, who launched her right-footed rocket off a quick pass from Nora Henderson in the final minutes for the first goal of the all-District 12-AAA rivalry battle. “Nora’s ball was perfect. We both recognized how small that gap was and when I got the ball, I took that half chance … it was just amazing.”
Pretto’s tally shattered the mounting tension after nearly 75 minutes of scoreless, back-and-forth action battling over the midfield. Rath followed with her own tally by tracking down a long ball on the right sideline and making some room before firing a low shot toward the left post as the Ravenwood crowd erupted.
“This means everything. These girls want it so badly,” Lady Raptors coach Jessica Mancini said. “They played for (the title) last year and they want to get back there. They didn’t want this to be the last game on their home field either.”
From getting pumped up in the locker room to staying focused in warmups and opening with a b…
The win avenged a 2-1 loss at Franklin last month when the Lady Admirals clinched the regular season district title over Ravenwood. Franklin’s Emma Shields helped control the midfield and a pair of early goals were the difference in that one.
Ravenwood had to work past Summit, arch rival Brentwood and a surging Centennial team to capture the district tournament crown to get into the regional. They raced past Cane Ridge in the region semis Tuesday, while Franklin advanced because District 11-AAA champion Overton was saddled with COVID-19 issues.
The match was just the second for Franklin this month.
The Lady Raptors still forfeited much of the leverage in the middle in the early going Thursday, but a quick tweak at the half pushed the home team from defenders to attackers.
“They came off the field in the first half and they already knew what they had to fix,” Mancini said. “Their soccer iQ is just crazy and they are all incredibly intelligent soccer players.”
Much of the shift worked around Henderson, who had played the opening 40 minutes a little more on her back foot as Ravenwood was so focused on defense. They were outshot 6-2 in the opening half, but Franklin only had one solid look on goal in the 22nd when Yukino Wakatsuki had a low shot blocked by Ravenwood keeper Lexi Grundler.
Henderson stayed high in the midfield in the second half and the Lady Raptors began to stretch the Franklin defense more and more as the middle began to open. The home team earned a 10-5 advantage on shots in the second 40.
Lady Admirals senior Emma Shields recognized the switch – its essentially what she did to Ravenwood in the first meeting.
“They were able to pack it in and have four or five in there,” Shields said. “That gave them the edge on us because they controlled the midfield.
“I think we played pretty frantic in the first half even though we were actually possessing the ball, but in the second half, when we got the ball, we never had enough people up and they could just quick-counter us.”
One of those counter attacks provided the best shot on goal all night when Henderson teamed up with Pretto to swipe the ball near midfield and lead a quick break. Henderson’s shot was wide left in the 61st, but it was enough to add to the growing confidence for the home team. Bella Macaso added a look in the 72nd and set the stage for Pretto’s goal.
“We all wanted this one,” said Pretto, who was named the Gateway Tire Female Athlete of the Week for her play in the district tournament last week. “I think we all played for each other. That’s what we always try to do and that’s what we are going to keep doing so hopefully, eventually, we can get back on top again.”
The region title appearance was the third in a row for Ravenwood. The Lady Raptors lost the last two region championships to Brentwood. Their last region title came in 2014 when they tipped Franklin 2-1.
“We always come into these games knowing we are going to battle it out,” Mancini said of facing a rival like Franklin. “They definitely saw some really good looks, but we did a much better job this game controlling the middle like we wanted and finding our outlets better. Hopefully we can continue to progress.”
Ravenwood will try to reach the state tournament for a third consecutive season on Saturday. Franklin is looking to get back to the state stage for the first time since falling in the semifinals in 2017.
“I’m super glad we get another chance,” Shields said. “We are going to move on from this. Now, we aren’t happy about this loss, but we are going to keep our heads up and get our minds right for Saturday.”
Hendersonville has lost in the sectional round in four straight seasons, including losses to Franklin in 2016 and 2017.