BRENTWOOD – Josie Rickets provided the only difference in a clash of surging soccer teams during an otherwise gridlocked first half in the District 12-AAA Girls Soccer Tournament Championship Thursday night in the wind and rain at Ravenwood High School.
The Lady Raptor senior converted a penalty kick after getting shoved in the box in the 13th minute for a foothold in the match. The defending Class AAA champions tacked on two more goals in the second half en route to a 3-0 win over a gritty Centennial team, which was making its first district final appearance in 15 years.
“This was some pretty nerve-racking stuff,” said Rickets, who was named the district MVP on defense prior to the match. “It was this fun anxiety I guess is what you could call it … I’m just so glad this wasn’t my last game because this means so much to all of us.”
Ravenwood was five goals better than Centennial two weeks ago in the regular season, but the Lady Cougars continued to impress under the guidance of co-Coach of the Year MaryLynn Williams with upsets at both Independence and top-seeded Franklin to reach the district final.
“We really didn’t know what to expect from Centennial,” Ravenwood coach Jessica Mancini said. “They surprised everyone for sure and we just didn’t know what was going to happen because they seemed to be improving every game.
"We just tried to play our game by keeping the ball and finding each other and maintaining consistency; we did that especially well in the second half.”
The Lady Cougars absorbed every attack Ravenwood mustered in the opening 40 minutes. Centennial goal keeper Lilli Schmittou set the tone early when she robbed Lady Raptor Marcela Forero Pretto with a diving save just three minutes in. The sophomore Lady Cougar keeper battled all night and came away with four crucial saves in the first half alone, including another hard shot from up close by Ravenwood’s Maddie Gleason in the 33rd.
Schmittou overcame back-to-back Lady Raptor corners and then after a deflection toward the top of the box, she stretched to tip Gleason’s shot over the crossbar for another brilliant save. However, the attacks kept coming.
Ravenwood's Anna Major tried a header on a Nora Henderson corner and the ball banged off the crossbar this time. Henderson had already tried two shots on goal herself, including a gliding flip up front that sailed just wide.
Ricketts' PK was the difference at the half, but Centennial couldn’t manage much offense and leaned heavily on the great play from Schmittou and backline players Meghan Carlson and Sydney Neihoff as well.
Williams, who was hired at her alma mater in June, witnessed her team’s best match of the season on Tuesday in a 1-0 win against Franklin. She knew it was a tall task for her girls to reach that level of intensity again.
The Lady Cougars seemed to raise their play again – at least defensively –through the first 40 minutes.
“They have done everything I could ever ask of them,” said Williams, a 2009 Centennial graduate. “I’m so proud of this group for being able to overcome what they have. I knew if they could play the way they did against Franklin, they could do it against anyone. It was a big mountain to climb.”
Williams said her team couldn't really break the pacing the Lady Raptors produced.
“Ravenwood is good at hiding their shape,” she said. “As a defense, you have to try not to get stretched out and be compact against them. Their energy and their movement off the ball is just unmatched.”
That consistent control led to an opening seven minutes into the second half when Pretto found a seam and launched a right-footed shot from the left corner of the box. The goal came on a feed from Major that was just beyond the reach of a leaping Schmittou for a 2-0 cushion.
Schmittou stopped two more Pretto looks in the following minutes and Sarah Kate Rath had a header on another Henderson corner come off high as Ravenwood maintained possession and their one-touch attack, methodically and deliberately moving the ball.
Pretto scored her second goal in the 65th after Rath flipped a ball to her on the right side. Deklan Larring led a quick attack for Centennial, but her shot banged off the crossbar on one of just a handful of looks on goal all night for the Lady Cougars.
“I think we really came together as a team,” said Ricketts, one of eight seniors for the Lady Raptors. “Communication is the biggest thing for us. This win took team communication and that’s how we were able to maintain control.”
FRANKLIN – The Centennial High School girls soccer team earned a shot at the District 12-AAA…
Larring had another shot stopped by Ravenwood’s Lexi Grundler in the 69th and both Carlson and Lindy Hash came up empty as well. Schmittou had one more big save when Lady Raptor Katie Devereaux slipped behind everyone for a breakaway but had her low shot batted away in the 73rd.
Williams loses six seniors from her upstart squad, but said her team has already set a new precedent for the years to come despite the championship setback.
“This is the new minimum for us now,” she said. “Getting into the final is the new norm and getting out of the final is the next step. Hopefully our younger players getting a taste of this will create that hunger for more.”
Ravenwood will join regular season district champ Franklin in the Region 6-AAA semifinals on Tuesday. The Lady Raptors are two wins away from reaching the state stage once again.
“This is huge for us, especially our seniors,” Mancini said. “They want this bad. You can see it in their eyes … their mentality, their push, their hunger to go as far as they can, is anything and everything a coach can ask for and they will drive us forward as far as they can.”
In other local soccer Thursday, the Page girls dropped a 1-0 District 11-AA championship match at Murfreesboro Central Magnet and will travel to Cheatham County Saturday in the regional.
Both Christ Presbyterian Academy and Battle Ground Academy picked up Division II-A Middle Region victories. The full report and photos can be found here.
BRENTWOOD — For the second year in a row, the Ravenwood High School girls soccer team saddle…
2020 All-District 12-AAA Team & Awards
Co-Player of the Year – Emma Shields, Franklin; Maison Wells, Brentwood
MVP Offense – Margaret DeFranco, Franklin
MVP Defense – Josie Ricketts, Ravenwood
Goalkeeper of the Year – Addison Johnson, Summit
Coaches of the Year – Maggie McLaughlin, Brentwood; MaryLynn Williams, Centennial
Franklin: Avery Brown, Jessie DeSantis, Brenna Swiger, Yukino Wakatsuki, Matty Taylor; Brentwood: Kate Boring, Meghan Lee, Katherine McGee, Hayley Howard; Ravenwood: Nora Henderson, Anna Major, Sarah Kate Rath, Maddie Gleason; Independence: Jaylin Counts, Maddie Greene, Sophia Finol, Natalie Russell; Centennial: Sydney Neihoff, Meghan Carlson, Lindy Hash, Jenna Drobny; Summit: Sam Holsenbeck, Camron Arnold, Courtney Orlando.