Christ Presbyterian Academy has absorbed the best the state can throw at them for two years and the Lady Lions soccer team is back in the final four of the Division II-A state tournament on the brink of repeating as champions.
CPA has produced a 17-0 record this season and hasn’t lost a match since the 2017 semifinals. They closed 19-0-1 last season as DII-A champions for the first time since reclassifying three seasons ago.
“I don’t think teams understand how hard it is to get to this point at all,” Lady Lions coach Tom Gerlach said. “You have to get through some really good teams and since we are the defending champions and we haven’t lost, everyone else is bringing their top a-game against us.
“Anything can happen any day and upsets happen if you don’t show up. So we are trying to enjoy the journey, be ready to play and not take for granted being back here in Murfreesboro.”
CPA plays Thursday at 4 p.m. against University School of Jackson (20-2). Battle Ground Academy (16-4), which has fallen in all three matchups against the Lady Lions, will take on St. George’s (10-8-1) in the other semifinal also at 4 p.m. Both matches are at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
After falling to CPA 3-0 in the region semifinals two weeks ago, BGA bounced back with a 3-1 win over Grace Christian Academy. After that, they had to hit the road traveling to both ends of the state for wins at Lausanne and at Christian Academy of Knoxville in a 3-2 overtime quarterfinal victory.
That kind of resiliency – like traveling some 800 miles and winning two elimination matches – is something that hasn’t gone unnoticed by Lady Wildcats coach Jan Morrissey.
“I’m just so proud of them,” she said. “I told the girls I was proud of them and that’s what I usually save for the end of the year banquet talk, but I wanted them to truly realize it and their accomplishments to get here.
“That warrior inside of them, they are displaying it and that’s just awesome. I just hope they can continue to harness it.”
Sophomore Kennedy Price fed freshman Keaton Mitchell for the eventual game-winner early in the first overtime at CAK. The two traded roles in the second half for an earlier tally with Price knocking in a ball from Mitchell. Senior Scout Speer, who returned during the region tournament after missing some time, also scored in the win. The trio all found the back of the net in a 6-0 win at Lausanne earlier last week with Mitchell scoring twice in the win over GCA as well.
BGA senior keeper Paige Shea has held strong in goal. She’s recorded a dozen saves in the last three matches.
“They are finding that extra gear,” Morrissey said. “We have been putting everything out there and emptying our tanks. I hope we are able to keep this going.”
BGA, which strung together three consecutive championship berths with a title win in 2014, can reach the final for the first time since 2016 with a victory Thursday.
The Lady Lions have outscored opponents 94-6 this season and have eight starters back from last year’s wild penalty kick win over Chattanooga Christian for the title.
Sophomore Caroline Betts, who crossed the 100-goal milestone in her career earlier this season, leads the Lady Lions attack. Juniors Caroline Avinger and Sylvie Keck also have caused headaches for opposing teams all season, while junior keeper Mary Carter Logan has produced a dozen shutouts this season.
The veteran coach said his team is working with balancing playing their game, which has produced just one tie and no losses in two seasons, and adjusting to opposing team’s game plans. USJ brings a talented pair of leaders in freshman Morgan English and senior Emily Jones, but features 10 other freshmen on the varsity.
“I think the experience we bring to the table is a big factor,” Gerlach said. “And we aren’t trying to be arrogant or anything, but a lot of it comes down to forcing other teams to try and adjust to us.
“It’s been a surreal run for these girls and without any seniors, it’s just wild.”