Seniors Grace Roddy, Kendall Scott, and Emma Daniels helped Bearden preserve its 14th clean sheet of the year on Saturday night, but no defensive statement all year was more important.
The trio of senior defenders has helped lead the Bearden back line all year, and they came through again Saturday in the Lady Bulldogs’ 2-0 win over rival Farragut that propelled them into the state tournament.
Bearden (15-6-2) will now play Brentwood (10-3) in Murfreesboro in the first round at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time.
“Going to state has been our goal every year, and for the last three years we have fallen short,” Roddy said. “Finally, for our senior year, we are going and could not be more excited.
“We are ready to take it all the way.”
The seniors have played well together all year alongside junior Abby McCord as the fourth starting defender, and Roddy believes that their experience with one another has been critical.
“With three seniors on the back line, playing together for four years strengthens us due to our bond and experience,” Roddy said.
Scott and Roddy play next to one another on the right side of the defense with Scott as a center back and Roddy at right back.
“Playing together so long has allowed us to build a solid friendship off the field, which plays a huge role in the way we play together,” Scott said. “We have developed a mutual trust and respect for each other, as well as chemistry and compatibility.
“Grace always has my back, and I always have hers.”
The Lady Bulldogs now quickly turn their focus to the state tournament, and although they are playing a strong team, head coach Ryan Radcliffe believes that his team’s experience with other state-bound teams will improve their chances.
“You look at the records of teams we’re going up against, our record doesn’t look as great as theirs, but if you look at our schedule, there’s not really another team in the state that matches up to our schedule,” he said. “The reason why we emphasize the games we play to the girls is that so when we get to state, there’s nobody we haven’t seen before.
“It kind of adds that calming factor that we’re not going in blindfolded and we know what to expect.”
Though Bearden has not seen Brentwood in an official game this year, the two teams did play a preseason scrimmage.
For senior Ashtyn Glover, this state game is unlike any other she has played in.
“The stakes are higher than they have ever been,” Glover said. “However, we all feel confident about the game and are going to rely on our mentality and chemistry.”
The Lady Bulldogs have passed their toughest test of the year – avenging a loss to their biggest rival in an elimination game – and Coach Radcliffe said he thinks that will pay dividends in Murfreesboro.
“I told them at the end of that game, if you can get through the emotion of this game, and the pressure that was on that game, then you can get through anything,” Coach Radcliffe said. “Our goal is to win state, but the amount of pressure in that game and the amount of anxiety just leading up, that was a huge hurtle to get over.
“The rest should be more relaxed, I think we should be more confident going in, and the rest is going to be icing on the cake.”