Bearden soccer is headed to Murfreesboro for the state tournament for the second time in three years.
The Bulldogs’ successful season has been backed by their strong offensive performances, and they’ll hope that continues when they open state tournament play against Cookeville on Tuesday at 5 p.m. Eastern at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
Despite losing key goal scorers over the past two seasons, Bearden has been able to rack up an impressive 82 goals this season.
Over the past two seasons, the Bulldogs lost Gabe Alvarez, who scored 33 goals in the 2016 season, and Will Lewis, who scored 20 goals in the 2017 season. This year’s group of players scored just 29 of Bearden’s goals in 2017, meaning their offensive output has grown by almost 300%.
Of those 82 goals this year, the junior duo of Collin Lewis (24 goals in 2018, 4 in 2017) and Jonathan Meystrik (14 goals in 2018, 1 in 2017) accounts for 46%. Meystrik, who had a hat trick last week against Science Hill, believes that in order to maintain success, he and Lewis had to step into goal-scoring roles.
“I think every year there’s the few players that step up and for all successful teams, which we have been this year, that’s required,” Meystrik said. “Coach every game is asking who’s going to step up this game.
“That to me is a really big motivation to step up and be the one to score goals.”
What’s even more impressive is the depth behind those two. In Bearden’s 3-2 sub-state win at Farragut on Saturday, neither Lewis nor Meystrik scored. A Farragut own goal gave Bearden an early lead, Carter Turner equalized after the Bulldogs went down a goal in the second half, and Caleb Wilkins headed in the late winner.
“I think that’s the fun part about this team,” Coach Ryan Radcliffe said. “Even if a team marks Collin tightly, it leaves a lot of open doors for guys that have been stepping up in the right moments.”
Lewis believes that it is beneficial to keep up a fast pace on the field, and Bearden’s depth allows them to do this well.
“We’re one of the few teams that just run and run,” Lewis said. “I think it’s really big for us to have a lot of people that can rotate in and just have fresh legs so for 80 minutes we can just go hard.”
If the Bulldogs win Tuesday, they will play the winner of Station Camp and Houston on Wednesday at 5 p.m. Eastern.
“I think to take every game one game at a time,” Meystrik said. “We just need to focus on this first game.”