Big-time players are supposed to make big plays in big games. Ansley Mullican and Morgan McCormick, the last two District 6-AAA MVPs, proved Thursday night they are indeed big-time players.
McCormick scored three goals and Mullican finished with one goal and two assists as the Warren County High School soccer team claimed the District 6-AAA tournament championship with a 4-1 victory over Coffee County.
Mullican and McCormick have been the driving force behind the Lady Pioneers all season and the junior duo was at its best when it mattered most Thursday.
McCormick recorded her third hat trick this season as two goals were set up by passes from Mullican. Mullican’s lone goal got the scoring started as Warren County was able to win its first district tournament championship under coach Todd Willmore.
Any jitters of playing in the championship game didn’t seem to show on the Lady Pioneer sideline. Warren County was in the championship game for the third straight year, while their opponent made it to the finals for the first time.
Coffee County defeated Cookeville in the semifinals, but the Lady Raiders couldn’t pull off back-to-back upsets in the finals.
Mullican gave the Lady Pioneers the early lead when she sped by the Lady Raider defense for a goal at the 10-minute mark.
Coffee County had controlled the ball from the opening kickoff, but Warren County seized the opportunity to score in transition.
Senior defender Rayah Kirby stole the ball, then sent a lead pass in the direction of Mullican. The speedy junior ran past three Lady Raider defenders to get an open look at the goal. Mullican’s aim was true as her shot beat Ashlyn Elledge, the all-district keeper from Coffee County, to put Warren County ahead 1-0.
Mullican and McCormick worked together to make it 2-0 midway through the first half.
McCormick moved through the middle of the Lady Raider zone before passing to Mullican on the outside. Mullican wasted little time feeding the ball back to her teammate as her chip pass went over the Lady Raider defense and right to McCormick.
McCormick tapped the ball past Elledge as Warren County went ahead by two with 20 minutes left in the first half.
The pace picked up after Warren County’s second goal. McCormick had a chance to make it 3-0 shortly after the kickoff, but Elledge made a diving save.
Coffee County flipped the field following the stop as the Lady Raiders got a great scoring chance on the counter attack. With a long lead pass going in front of the Warren County goal, keeper Lyndi Dodd stormed out to try to kick the ball away. Her attempt was blocked, sending the ball flying toward the Lady Pioneer net with nobody else in sight.
At the last second, defender Taylor Mullican flew in and cleared the ball before it rolled into the goal for a Coffee County score.
The defensive stop proved to be a turning point as Warren County scored 30 seconds later.
During the frantic scramble, Coffee County moved up on offense while McCormick kept her distance at midfield. When Warren County controlled the ball, McCormick was able to get behind the Lady Raider defense following a pass.
McCormick made the best of her one-on-one opportunity as she scored to make it 3-0.
McCormick nearly made it 4-0 right before the half, but an offsides penalty negated the goal as Warren County settled for a three-goal advantage at the break.
Coach Willmore, who was named District 6-AAA coach of the year prior to the game, kept insisting to his team that finishing strong was mandatory against the Lady Raiders.
The dynamic duo of McCormick and Mullican responded to their coach’s message by adding an insurance goal to start the second half.
Mullican found McCormick open for her third goal, which gives the junior 26 scores this season and 52 goals in the last two years.
Warren County would lose its shutout late in the game when District 6-AAA offensive player of the year Katie Reed scored on a penalty kick, but the Lady Pioneers still celebrated when the final whistle blew.
Coach Willmore was happy for his team, which had made winning a district title one of its goals before the season started.
With the win, the Lady Pioneers will get to play its regional game at home this season. Warren County will play host to Ooltewah Tuesday with a berth in the regional finals on the line. The Lady Pioneers beat the Lady Owls 8-0 earlier this season. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m.