For the first time in program history, the Cumberland County Lady Jets are heading to Murfreesboro for the Class AA state soccer tournament.
The Lady Jets earned their spot in this week’s tournament following a victory over Livingston Academy in last Thursday’s Region 3AA championship and Saturday’s Class AA sectional over Sequatchie County, both by a 1-0 margin.
“They deserve it,” said CCHS coach Cub Whitson. “These girls work so hard for it. They’re an awesome group of kids. They love being out here.”
Region 3AA championship
The Lady Jets lined up across the field from the Livingston Academy Lady Wildcats for the third time this season on Thursday, and for the third time CCHS was victorious over Livingston.
“They did a great job keeping us out of the goal,” Whitson said. “They tweaked some things from the last two times we played them. Their two forwards up top are deadly.”
The two teams battled throughout the first half with neither gaining the upper hand. The contest went to halftime tied at 0-0.
In the second half, Cumberland County made the one play it needed.
Lauren Randall broke through the Wildcat defense, forcing the Livingston keeper out of position allowing for a clean look for Jordan Herring, who sunk the game-winning shot into the right side of the net with 16:46 remaining.
“The goalie came out, and Lauren had the ball to the right of me,” Herring said. “I called for a drop, and I just knew it was going in.”
“For us, it was kind of the typical routine,” said Whitson. “Lauren Randall down the sideline, plays it across, and there’s a scrum in the box. She didn’t finish it, but she gets things in motion. Jordan Herring was right there to finish it.”
The goal gave Cumberland County a 1-0 lead, a lead that senior keeper Alli Wilson and the Lady Jet defense held on to for the duration of the contest to give CCHS its second region championship in three years.
“We made sure that we stayed between them and the goal,” added Whitson. “Our defense played so hard and so well together.”
Thursday’s win set up a winner-take-all contest against Sequatchie County on Saturday in the Class AA substate, held at CCHS. Cumberland County defeated Sequatchie County 3-2 earlier in the year.
“The atmosphere,” Whitson said on the difference in the two games. “Knowing who wins this goes to state. They brought it and I was very impressed. It felt like we couldn’t get it past their first line.
“The conditions were not in anybody’s favor today,” Whitson added. “The wind was horrific. We just couldn’t get anything to go in. For the girls to not only play against the weather, but also an awesome Sequatchie team was phenomenal.”
Like Thursday’s region championship, CCHS found itself in a stalemate at halftime, tied 0-0 with the Lady Indians.
Midway through the second half, Cumberland County finally broke through the Sequatchie defense for a season-defining goal.
Lady Jet right back Beth Ann Brewer made a run past the Sequatchie defense, followed by a cross to Herring, who scored her team’s game-winning goal for the second time in less than 48 hours.
It was a footrace down to the corner flag,” Brewer said. “I figured it was going out of bounds, but I went for it anyways. Then I just took a touch and sent it in hoping someone was there, and Jordan found it.”
“I saw Beth and knew she was going to kick it in for the cross,” Herring said. “Those situations have happened before, when it goes past the defender and the goalie.”
With the 1-0 lead, Cumberland County’s defense kept Sequatchie out of the net for the duration of the contest, winning 1-0 and qualifying for the TSSAA state soccer tournament.
“Some of the plays were tough, but my defense supported me when I needed them,” said Wilson, the Lady Jet keeper who has given up only one goal in five postseason games.
“It’s exciting,” Wilson added. “It’s something I never thought I’d have the chance to do. But here I am with the best team.”
Cumberland County’s seniors have now won a district championship, two region championships, and made a trip to the state tournament.
“These seniors were my first freshman group when I came back,” Whitson said. “Lauren Randall and Maison Gargac are my two four-year seniors. Being at this moment with those girls, I can’t describe it. They’re the best kids. They sacrifice to help the team win. For them to achieve this goal, it warms my heart.”
The state tournament is nothing new for Whitson, who took the boys soccer team to Murfreesboro last spring.
“The teams are quite a bit different,” Whitson said. “The style that we play and the mentality. Having the experience helps. Maybe tweaking a few things that I wish I had done last time.”
Cumberland County will face South Gibson High School (14-4-1) in the Class AA state tournament quarterfinals next Wednesday, Nov. 6, at 4 p.m. at the Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro.