MURFREESBORO – Senior Trystan Wepking missed the entire high school soccer season last year with a knee injury. She watched as her Nolensville teammates pushed into the Class AA state tournament for the first time and even advanced to the semifinals before falling to Seymour in 2018.
Wepking, the District 11-AA Player of the Year, has been a member of the soccer program all four years of its existence.
She played when the young school debuted with two wins as a freshman. She helped the Lady Knights reach the district tournament for the first time in 2017 as a sophomore, but after suffering an Anterior Cruciate Ligament tear in early 2018, she could only cheer last season as Nolensville continued to rise.
On Thursday, Wepking helped her team take the next step. The Lady Knights will play for a state championship after crushing South Gibson 8-0 in the semifinals at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
“It’s just amazing,” said Wepking, one of nine seniors – a part of the first true senior class for NHS. “It’s going to be so heartfelt on Saturday when that final buzzer sounds no matter the result.”
“We’re trying to make history,” Wepking continued. “We are trying to pull out the first state championship for Nolensville women’s soccer in our first state final. This is only our fourth year. It’s just amazing to see how far we have come.”
The sloppy weather meant soggy, slippery fields Thursday. And since Nolensville played a night match, well, that meant much cooler temperatures, including a brisk wind chill that dipped the temps even more. The temperature hovered at 44 when the match began.
Senior Parker Leftwich slipped on the opening possession and paused for a moment on her back in the mud-soaked field. She popped up, dripping wet, with a smile and sort of displayed how the entire team took to the conditions with her simple reaction.
Wepking said embracing poor conditions is important and can even make a match more fun.
“I love playing in these kind of conditions,” said the senior, who coach Nolensville Eric Shelton calls “the heart of the team.“
“It makes the game so much more fun and competitive,” Wepking added. “And you really see who the better team is and who is willing to just step up mentally and fight through no matter what to pull out a win.”
That team was definitely Nolensville Thursday.
After Millie Smith and Baylee Farr scored on rebounds in the first half for a 2-0 lead, the Lady Knights blew open the contest with four goals in the first seven minutes of the second half.
“In the second half we made an emphasis to get something going in the first five minutes,” Shelton said. “I didn’t expect four goals, but I’ll take it.”
Farr fired in her second tally just over a minute out of the halftime break, while senior Kaitlyn Sneed scored on a ball from Farr just 85 seconds later. Early in the 44th, sophomore Elise Dobson got in on the barrage off a feed from Smith. In the 47th, Sneed converted again.
MURFREESBORO – Sophomore Elise Dobson scored twice in the first half and senior Baylee Farr …
Shelton said the side of the field the Lady Knights were on had a bit better surface than in the first half and allowed his team to move the ball more crisply. The Lady Knights didn’t struggle much finding opportunities, but they were much more deliberate to open the second half with a slightly better surface.
Nolensville overwhelmed South Gibson with 43 shots, including 27 on goal. Lady Hornets keeper Sadie Nelson racked up 19 saves despite allowing eight goals as Nolensville only added to the momentum built from Wednesday’s 4-0 shutout of East Hamilton in the state quarterfinals.
“These girls work incredibly hard,” Shelton said. “They are accustomed to being successful and winning with their club teams and I think that confidence they bring with them to the high school team helps everybody feel comfortable on the field.”
Freshman Alia Gaddis tacked on a goal in the 70th and senior Alexis Fohr closed the scoring in the 75th for the surging Lady Knights. Dobson closed with two dimes, while Leftwich and sophomore Alaina Hornyak added assists.
Nolensville, which improved to 14-3-3, will play for the school’s second championship in about two weeks Saturday in Murfreesboro. The Lady Knights volleyball team won the Class AA crown recently.
Nolensville faces Greeneville (18-7) for the title at 1:30 p.m. The Lady Greene Devils dispatched Murfreesboro Central 2-0 in the other semifinal.
Shelton said his team will be ready for Saturday.
"The problem might be trying to rein these girls in," he joked.