The Warren County Middle School Lady Pioneers traveled to Tullahoma for the Central Tennessee Conference Tournament on Saturday and left with the championship trophy.
“The girls were obviously ecstatic and very emotional,” said WCMS coach Matt Walker. “Winning the JV and varsity championships in the same year shows the depth and quality of players this season. We have a strong group of seventh-graders with a good mix of sixth-graders and eighth-graders to complete both teams.”
WCMS won the JV tournament the weekend before.
In varsity action Saturday, the Lady Pioneers faced the Lady Gators from Franklin North Middle School in their first match. The Lady Gators had beaten the Lady Pioneers 2-1 earlier in the season and the game was one matchup the Lady Pioneers were eager to play.
“We dominated the game so thoroughly last time, yet they scored twice on only three shot attempts and beat us,” said Walker. “We knew we had to come out fast and set the tone and leave no doubt about the outcome.”
The Lady Pioneers did just that as four minutes into the game, Natalie Stepien found Macie Powers wide open on the far post and she put it away for a quick 1-0 Warren County lead.
After keeping constant pressure on the Lady Gator goal, Lady Pioneer Katie Toney dribbled the ball through the entire Lady Gator defense and slid it past the goalie for a 2-0 lead at halftime. The Lady Pioneer defense allowed zero shots on goal the entire first half.
Staying on the offensive in early second-half play, firing shot after shot while winning the midfield failed to add any more goals for WCMS.
With 15 minutes to play, the Lady Gators broke free and scored on their first shot attempt to cut the lead to 2-1. The Lady Pioneers buckled down on defense and denied North any opportunity to even the match and the whistle blew sending the Lady Pioneers to the championship to face the Lady Raiders of Coffee County, who went undefeated in conference play and were the two-time defending champions.
On their two previous meetings with Coffee County, the first ended in a scoreless tie, and the Lady Pioneers lost 3-0 in their next meeting.
“All we told the girls before the game was that this was their story to write and only they could determine how this story was going to end,” said Walker. “We knew we had to score first to provide the confidence we needed to beat this very formidable team.”
It was Lady Pioneer Katie Toney who took control of the ball at midfield and weaved her way through the Coffee County defense and blasted a shot past the goalie to give Warren County an early 1-0 lead. The score remained 1-0 at the half.
“You are 30 minutes away from attaining the goal we talked about in tryouts,” Walker told his team at the break. “Finish your story.”
The Lady Pioneers used their speed and athleticism to keep the ball on their attacking third of the field for most of the second half, but with just 10 minutes left on the clock, the Lady Raiders broke free and found the back of the net from 20 yards out with a perfect volley.
The score remained 1-1 as time expired and went into overtime. Both teams played an evenly matched overtime period with no one scoring leading to a penalty-kick shootout to determine the champion.
“We worked on taking penalty kicks under pressure all year. We took them every day on the final week to prepare for this exact situation so I was extremely confident the girls were prepared and would finish this off,” Walker said.
Sarah Badger, Journey Cowan, Breezy Wanamaker and Shelby Roberts made PKs to give the Lady Pioneers the win.
“We were definitely the underdogs coming into this match and I don’t think many people gave us a chance,” said Walker. “I am convinced this is the best game we played all year long. We controlled the action and played our style of soccer for most of the 70-minute match.”