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Senior Saints finish career with state title

Top row, from left, are Taegan Allen, Kylee Bright, Sarina Diebenow, Marianne Agee, Allison Samisch, Kaley Smithmier, Ashton Pugh, Lauren Cummings and Emily Lankford. Middle row, from left, are Heinz Grant, Holland Heinz, Addie McDaniel, Alainee Miller, Peyton Moore, Morgan Jones, Julia Perrusquia and Brianna Pope. Front row, from left, are AD Streetman, Brittany Hatmaker, Alyssa Neuberger, Kaitlin Echols and Abby Lollar.
Top row, from left, are Taegan Allen, Kylee Bright, Sarina Diebenow, Marianne Agee, Allison Samisch, Kaley Smithmier, Ashton Pugh, Lauren Cummings and Emily Lankford. Middle row, from left, are Heinz Grant, Holland Heinz, Addie McDaniel, Alainee Miller, Peyton Moore, Morgan Jones, Julia Perrusquia and Brianna Pope. Front row, from left, are AD Streetman, Brittany Hatmaker, Alyssa Neuberger, Kaitlin Echols and Abby Lollar.

Top row, from left, are Taegan Allen, Kylee Bright, Sarina Diebenow, Marianne Agee, Allison Samisch, Kaley Smithmier, Ashton Pugh, Lauren Cummings and Emily Lankford. Middle row, from left, are Heinz Grant, Holland Heinz, Addie McDaniel, Alainee Miller, Peyton Moore, Morgan Jones, Julia Perrusquia and Brianna Pope. Front row, from left, are AD Streetman, Brittany Hatmaker, Alyssa Neuberger, Kaitlin Echols and Abby Lollar.

The Big Green Machine rolled into Murfreesboro with high expectations sporting a stellar 16-2-1 record and number six national ranking heading into the TSSAA D2-AA semifinals in girls soccer last weekend. The girls delivered big time winning Briarcrest’s first ever state title in soccer defeating Girls Preparatory School of Chattanooga (GPS) 3-2 in a heart stopping penalty kick thriller semifinal followed up by a dominant 2-1 win over Baylor in the championship game giving Coach Alexis Boyd Heinz her first state title.
Friday night was the game that all Lady Saints relished: a rematch of last year’s championship game with GPS in which GPS prevailed 1-0 after winning in penalty kicks 7-6. Briarcrest manhandled GPS during the regular season in August defeating the Bruisers 4-0 on their home field, but GPS came prepared to defend its title and played much more organized and determined in round two.
GPS scored first after a free kick was misplayed in the Lady Saints box 15 minutes into the game. BCS answered with a Julia Perrusquia goal six minutes later when she chipped the ball over the GPS keeper from the top of the box to make it 1-1. It was Perrusquia’s fifth goal of the season.
BCS then made it 2-1 with 19 minutes left in the second half when Kaley “Sparky” Smithmier picked up the ball from a rebound off the GPS keeper and fired it into the back of the net. It was the sophomore’s third goal of the season.
Two minutes after that, GPS had another free kick from outside the box and again made BCS pay when after a scramble in front of the box, a GPS player poked it past the Lady Saint defense to knot it up at 2-2 where it remained until the end of regulation.
After two overtime periods in which neither team scored, the game went to penalty kicks. AD Streetman was waiting for this moment since last year in Murfreesboro when a GPS player kicked her in the face giving her a concussion necessitating Streetman leaving the game.
Streetman was spectacular in goal denying the first two attempts by GPS. The Lady Saints left no doubt who would prevail when all four penalty kick takers- Alyssa Neuberger, Brittany Hatmaker, Allison Samisch and Kaitlin Echols- nailed their attempts winning the shootout 4-1 to set up a showdown the next night with Baylor.
Despite the rain and wet field conditions, the Lady Saints were ready and eager for the championship game with Baylor. Coach Alexis started Hatmaker, Neuberger, Samisch, Echols, Perrusquia, Smithmier, Streetman, Taegan Allen, Peyton Moore, Ashton Pugh and Sarina Diebenow. Other players who saw action were Heinz Grant, Emily Lankford, Abby Lollar, Holland Heinz, Kylee Bright and Lauren Cummings. It was especially gratifying for Hatmaker and Diebenow who missed last year’s championship game due to injuries.
Briarcrest set the tone early when Smithmier, off an Allen pass, fired a shot just wide left of the goal within 30 seconds of the start. The Lady Saints could not capitalize on a couple of other opportunities, but twelve minutes in, Briarcrest was awarded a free kick 30 yards out from the Baylor goal. Allen stepped up to the ball and nailed it over the entire defense into the upper left corner just beyond the Baylor goalkeeper. The ESPN highlight worthy goal gave the Lady Saints the lead at 1-0 and was the junior’s third goal of the season.
The score remained 1-0 until nine minutes into the second half when Allen taking a corner kick sent the ball into the Baylor box where a charging Hatmaker leaped above a crowd twisting her head to send it over the Baylor keeper into the back of the net to make it 2-0. It turned out to be the winning goal and a dramatic ending to Hatmaker’s Briarcrest career. It was her career best 19th goal of the season and 55th in her four year career.
Baylor did score with four minutes remaining, but the Lady Saints were not to be denied and won 2-1 giving Briarcrest its record 18th win of the season.
“The whole focus this year has been getting back to State and winning it,” said Coach Heinz. “We were disappointed in the overtime penalty kick loss to GPS last year. We felt that we were still the better team. This year every summer fitness session, every summer practice, preseason, weightlifting, tournaments, a tough schedule – all of these things had but one intention – to get back to State and win it all.”
“We had a tough draw going into Sub-state,” Heinz continued. “Father Ryan should have been a No. 1 or No. 2 seed, not the No. 5 seed. I was thankful we played them at home. Then we saw our semifinal matchup – GPS – frankly, a team that I thought we should be playing in the finals. They gave us one heck of a game. It seems only fitting that it took penalty kicks to decide it once again. This time we came out on top. We practiced and trained for every scenario, and it seemed to benefit us in the end. Our final game [against Baylor] was the best matchup for us. I felt like we could probably have put it away earlier, especially in outshooting them 16-7. However, nothing is easy when it comes to a State Tournament.”
The championship game marked the final appearance in a Briarcrest uniform for six seniors- Hatmaker, Heinz, Grant, Alainee Miller, Neuberger and Samisch.
Neuberger ends her career on a high note scoring a stunning 46 goals this year giving her an impressive 101 for her career. She scored or had an assist in 17 games this year. The Dartmouth commit and returning Best of the Preps Player of the Year also led the team in assists this season with 16 to give her 57 for her career placing her third all-time in Shelby County history behind only Cindy Parlow (Germantown High/UNC Chapel Hill/USWNT) and Olivia Harrison (Houston High/Ole Miss) and eighth all time in the State of Tennessee.
The Lady Saints scored a school record 92 goals while only allowing 18 goals- a Heinz era record. Briarcrest handed nine of its 16 opponents their worst defeat of the season and/or scored most goals allowed by them. The defense pitched 10 shutouts-also a Heinz era record.
Thirteen different players scored a goal for the Lady Saints and 16 different players were credited with an assist. Eighteen players either scored a goal or had an assist.
Briarcrest has a 20 game undefeated home streak dating back to October 2013 and looks forward to defending its region and state titles beginning next August.
“Our returning players now have to step up and rise to the challenge, and I’m confident they will give it all they have,” said Heinz. “We saw that in the playoffs this year with new leaders emerging. It won’t be easy. We’re losing a lot of offensive production, but our entire defense returns intact. Everybody will give us their best shot. We got a taste of that this fall. That’s part of being a quality program.”