Forgive the East Ridge girls’ soccer team if it took a little longer than usual to get going in Tuesday night’s District 6-A/AA semifinals at Camp Jordan.
The Lady Pioneers were on the verge of uncharted territory.
And once Abby Sweatman got her team started 25 minutes into the first half against Red Bank, they never looked back until history had been made.
East Ridge coach Jeremy McIntyre said the 4-0 win marked the first ever district semifinal victory for his program.
The Lady Pioneers will try for their first district title in Thursday’s championship match against top-seeded Hixson, which defeated Marion County 8-0 in its semifinal Tuesday.
“This is history in the making,” McIntyre said. “This is my ninth year coaching here, and we’ve never made it past the semifinals. This is absolutely huge for us. This is the first time we’ve ever made it to the district championship.”
After Sweatman opened the scoring for East Ridge, the Lady Pioneers were able to add to their lead with two goals in the final 10 minutes of the first half. Juana Luarca and Kayla Deck both scored to give their team a 3-0 halftime advantage.
“I knew that we just needed to break through first,” McIntyre said. “I told the girls if we could just get the first one, that would open things up for us. In the district semifinals, both teams are fighting to survive, and eventually, something has to break. Getting that first goal was a big plus for us. It gave us the confidence to keep going.”
Sweatman added another goal in the second half, and the East Ridge defense maintained the shutout. McIntyre said in addition to their on-the-field skill, the Lady Pioneers (7-6) also have used strong team chemistry to carry them through this historic season.
“These girls all just love each other,” he said. “They feel like they’re family. They have this togetherness, and they’re fighters. We really just have a great mix. We’ve got speed and we’ve got a great solid defense and keeper. They all just seem to click together, and hopefully we can carry this into the next game.”
That game will take place Thursday night at Hixson in the championship match against the top-seeded Lady Wildcats, who defeated East Ridge 2-1 during the regular season. McIntyre knows his Lady Pioneers will face a tough challenge in their first district final, but hopes they can continue to make history.
“That was a tough game,” said. “It’s going to be a battle.”
HIXSON 8 MARION COUNTY 0 -- Samantha Green scored four goals to lead Hixson to an 8-0 win over Marion County in the other district semifinal. Savannah Keef, Cicely Homes, Taylor Pack and Sidney Hale also had goals. Holmes and Green also had assists along with Jensen Dupree. Karla Martinez had three assists. Cambree Spurlock had six saves for Hixson.
(E-mail Jaime Barrett at firstname.lastname@example.org)