Maybe it was the disappointment of losing to Soddy Daisy for the third straight year or the realization by eight senior starters that they’ll never play another game at Warren County High School field, but when the final whistle sounded in Thursday’s regional final game, tears flowed on the Lady Pioneer sideline.
Warren County (15-7-1) had mounted an impressive comeback in the second half, but the Lady Pioneers came up one goal short in a 6-5 loss to the Lady Trojans.
Though the loss didn’t end the season like the last two years Soddy Daisy defeated Warren County, the Lady Pioneers still took the loss hard.
Fighting back from a four-goal deficit proved to be too much for the Lady Pioneers as Soddy Daisy claimed a regional tournament championship on Warren County’s home field.
It was an all-too-familiar sight for the Lady Pioneers, who have watched Soddy Daisy celebrate the last two years after ending the Lady Pioneers’ season in the regional semifinals.
In what has become an annual postseason meeting between the two squads, Warren County got a chance to take on Soddy Daisy in the regional finals this season after defeating the Ooltewah Lady Owls 5-1 in the regional semifinals.
The Lady Pioneers held an early advantage, getting goals from Ayla Anish and Morgan McCormick in the first 20 minutes to go ahead 2-1, but five straight goals by Soddy Daisy proved to be the difference as Warren County couldn’t come back for the second time in two weeks against the Lady Trojans.
In a regular-season matchup between the two teams Oct. 9, Warren County dug a 3-0 hole at halftime before rallying to a 5-5 tie.
The Lady Pioneers once again found themselves down three goals at halftime in regional finals, though the scoring was increased the second time around.
The Lady Trojans struck first 10 minutes into the game, perhaps with the benefit of a missed call. Warren County saw a pass creep behind the Lady Pioneer defense and to Miranda Smith, who was behind the defense.
Instead of seeing an offsides call, Warren County players had to watch as keeper Lyndi Dodd couldn’t get her outstretched hands on Smith’s shot that found the back of the net.
Frustration by the missed call seemed to fuel Warren County as the Lady Pioneers rallied to take the lead.
After the kickoff, Lauren Roller found Anish streaking to the net but Soddy Daisy keeper Baylee Burk made a diving stop to keep the score 1-0 in favor of the visitors.
Burk wouldn’t stop another attack by Roller and Anish minutes later. Roller led Anish to the goal with another pass and the senior striker was able to get her leg on the ball just before Burk could reach it. The ball trickled past Burk and into the net as Anish knotted the game at 1-1.
McCormick brought the packed crowd to its feet in the 16th minute when she put the Lady Pioneers ahead. McCormick found a small opening in the Lady Trojan defense near the 18-yard box and took aim at the goal. The star junior’s shot beat Burk as Warren County took a 2-1 lead.
The advantage didn’t last long though. Soddy Daisy went on the offensive for the rest of the first half. Summer Lanter scored twice while Smith and Megan Weller added goals of their own to put the Lady Trojans ahead 5-2 entering halftime.
Smith completed her hat trick in the opening minute of the second half as Soddy Daisy pushed its lead to four goals.
Instead of accepting another loss to the Lady Trojans, Warren County continued to fight.
District 6-AAA MVP Ansley Mullican answered back with a goal in the second minute of the second half, then McCormick made it 6-4 when she scored on a penalty kick with 25 minutes to play.
Anish, who put on a valiant performance while battling a knee injury, brought Warren County within one late.
Mullican passed in the direction to Anish while the Lady Pioneers advanced toward the Soddy Daisy goal. With two defenders trying to stop her and Burks closing in, Anish slid toward the ball. Her effort was rewarded when she got a toe on the ball and the shot rolled into the goal.
With momentum on their side, the Lady Pioneers pushed forward in hopes of getting the equalizer late. McCormick and Mullican each had opportunities, but their shots were just wide in the final minutes.
Soddy Daisy was able to play keepaway in the final minute, taking the ball into the corner and holding it to the final whistle blew.
While the disappointment was evident for the Lady Pioneers as players consoled others while crying, opportunity still awaited Warren County.
Warren County advanced to sectionals, where the Lady Pioneers faced the Seigel Lady Stars last night in Murfreesboro. Scores were unavailable at press time.
With a win, the Lady Pioneers would advance to the state tournament which begins Wednesday in Chatta-nooga.