Coach Andy Byrd’s team traveled to Cookeville Friday afternoon and defeated the highly-ranked Lady Cavaliers of Cookeville High School in an impressive performance, 3-0. Cookeville has been ranked among the state’s top 10 girls’ teams throughout the season.
“This is probably our best match of the year,” said the Cleveland coach. “We played great defense.”
The Cleveland coach praised the play of seniors Allison Simpson and Katelyn McChesney. “Katelyn played a tremendous game,” Byrd said. “We have been working with her all season (to perform at this level) and she’s stepped up lately. Allison is a tremendous goalkeeper and has given us four phenomenal years. She had not played soccer before coming out her freshman year.”
“All of the defense played really well, and our support was great,” Byrd added. He said it as good that his seniors are playing well. “We need that senior leadership if we’re going to go far in the playoffs,” he said.
This weekend’s soccer trip to Middle Tennessee, provided through support from the team’s parents, was an attempt by Byrd and his coaching staff to judge the current playing level of the Lady Raiders.
The Cleveland coach emphasized that Friday’s win was great ... but it doesn’t get any easier. After staying overnight in Cookeville, the Lady Raiders journeyed a short way south to Murfreesboro for a game with Siegel late Saturday afternoon. Siegel is regarded as one of the top two or three teams in the state.
Byrd said the win over Cookeville was especially pleasing. “They play a tougher schedule than we do, and we’re trying to establish a rivalry between our teams for the future.”
“Cookeville is a good team, but I thought we had the advantage today,” Byrd told his team after the match.
McChesney and Simpson had sensational games, but a number of other players contributed to the win.
After a scoreless opening period, McChesney put the Lady Raiders in front at the 33:30 mark of the second half on an assist from freshman McKenzie Harris.
Cleveland then added two additional goals to the scoreboard late in the second period.
Hope Haas got the second score on a rebound off Harris, and then junior Kaitlyn Poulakis put the game away.
“Kaitlyn’s score (from about 25 yards away) has to be the goal of the season,” Byrd said in admiration of Friday’s final score for his Lady Raiders.
Cookeville held a 6-2 edge on shots on goal in the first 40 minutes, but the Lady Raiders dominated play in the second half.
n There was also a tight junior varsity match to begin the day. Hass and Lauren Conn scored goals for the young Lady Raiders as the two teams battled to a 2-2 deadlock. Cleveland’s junior varsity is now 4-2-1 on the season.