The Greeneville girls soccer team will begin defense of its state championship on Friday night in the Class 2A state tournament.
The Lady Devils will open the tournament against Murfreesboro Central at 6:30 p.m. Central Time at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
“Right now we feel like we are playing really good soccer,” Greeneville coach Jerry Graham said. “We’re combining really well, and we’re playing for each other. The midfield is finding those passing lanes and those forwards have been making great runs. The defense has been lock down lately.
“We feel like we are peaking at the right moment and playing some of our best soccer right now.”
Not only did Greeneville win last year’s Class 2A state championship, but it has now been in the state tournament for six consecutive seasons and has captured a state championship on three of those five previous trips.
The Lady Devils know the routine of going to the state tournament and they know what it takes to finish on top, which Graham hopes can be an advantage this weekend.
“Experience can be a tremendous advantage,” Graham said. “I think it’s easy to get lost in the lights down there. You walk in and the best teams in the state are playing games all around you. It can be overwhelming. We think the fact that we have a routine when we go down there is a big advantage.”
Greeneville defeated Murfreesboro Central 2-0 in the state semifinals a year ago on a water-logged field. Graham does not know a lot about this year’s 14-4-1 Central squad, but after playing year ago he feels confident in the formation and style of play he will implement.
Murfreesboro Central advanced to the state tournament by defeating White House Heritage 2-0 in the state sectionals. The Lady Tigers lost to Page 1-0 in the Region 6-2A championship after beating Page 1-0 in the District 11-2A championship.
“We don’t know a whole lot about them,” Graham said. “We obviously played them last year in the heavy rain, but that probably wasn’t a good indicator of either team. We know about their formation and the key players they have back from last year. We have focused in practice on playing against their shape.”
Greeneville comes into the state tournament with a team that can score from all over the field.
Olivia Brooks is coming off a hat trick in the state sectionals, but Delana DeBusk, Lindsey Cook and Macy Vermillion have all had multi-score games this year. Up the middle, Anne Marie Konieczny and Kaitlyn Adkins have skillfully distributed the ball to those scorers.
This postseason, Greeneville has outscored opponents 37-2.
“The fact that we have so many girls who can score from different positions is very important,” Graham said. “We have almost five girls in double-digit scoring and assists. That means that teams can’t isolate one girl, and if they do we will find that and capitalize.”
On the defensive end, the back line of Anna Johnson, Lauren Thomas, Olivia Norris and Brylee Tweed have been tough to beat. On the rare occasion an opponent has gotten a look at the goal, the sure-handed Mikayla Weems has cleaned almost everything up between the posts.
“Mikayla does a great job in goal, then that back line has only given up 13 goals all year against some pretty quality opponents,” Graham said. “They are playing really good soccer right now. Their communication has gotten better and better as the season has gone on.”
On paper, Graham believes that entering the tournament his squad would be the top ranked of eight teams in the field and the Lady Tigers would be second. Neither program is very fond of the draw, but having more time to prepare could have its advantages in a tournament that has challenging quick turnarounds.
The Richard Siegel Soccer Complex is also where Murfreesboro Central plays its home matches.
“I don’t think either of us are real thrilled about this draw, but to win it all you have to play the best eventually. We know that all of the teams down there are going to be quality,” Graham said. “We do have more time to work against their formation in practice. At the same time, they have more time to get information on us and figure out how to defend us.”
Looking at the bracket beyond the first round, Graham thinks Livingston Academy is another tough team on his team’s half of the bracket while East Hamilton and Region 1-2A runner up Seymour could both advance from the other side of the bracket.
The state tournament was originally scheduled to begin Wednesday but the TSSAA moved it back due to expected heavy rain from Hurricane Zeta. The tournament will now run Friday until Monday.