Taking part in a four-day soccer camp, the Lady Raiders are working hard, honing their skills for what head coach Andy Byrd anticipates will be a tight District 5-AAA race.
“When you look at the district, you have Bradley (Central) putting things together and improving. Soddy-Daisy is going to be strong. Ooltewah always manages to put together a good team. I think everyone is going to be a little bit better. Some teams have really improved, and it’s going to be a more even district overall,” said Byrd.
Last season, Cleveland came in second in district play, falling to Soddy-Daisy’s Lady Trojans in the championship, before making an early exit in the Region 3-AAA tournament. The team then made an early exit from the Region 3-AAA tournament when it fell in the semifinals to Cookeville.
While this year’s team is young, Byrd is expecting big things for a group that he claims has a lot of raw, untapped talent.
“We have some freshmen coming in that have stepped up and are really going to help us. Not to mention we are returning some great players who have proven what they can go out and do,” he explained.
“You have to defend first. If you look in the back we have lost some starters. We lost some starters in the midfield. Ultimately, we lost about half our team, but kids we have returned are stellar, and our new players can get things done.”
Cleveland will feature just two seniors on this year’s squad. Alex Hutt will be a big stopper as the central defender and Betsy Hobbs will man the outside midfielder position.
Sophomore Jenna Scoggins will again be anchoring the team in goal after making some big-time stops during her freshman season.
“We might be young, but we are going to be dangerous. Once the season gets under way we will be able to knock the ball around. Sky’s the limit with this team. We are going to be competitive. I have a great group of girls, a great group of parents. Everyone is looking forward to the season,” Byrd expressed.
Lee University’s soccer camp plays host to a half dozen area team and consists of a training session in the morning, another in the evening and a full-game scrimmage to end the day.
Local teams also participating in the camp include the Bradley Central Bears and the defending district champion Soddy-Daisy Lady Trojans.
“This is a great kick-start to the season. It’s putting a little fuel on the fire for us. Hopefully, this will give us a head start on some of the other teams in the state. Our parents are footing the bill, and we greatly appreciate that. Athletics at Cleveland High School would be impossible without the support of our great parents,” Byrd stated.