Lady Cyclones back up preseason words

By Allen LaMountain
ASST. SPORTS EDITOR
awlamountain@starhq.com

   After coming up short against the Gatlinburg-Pittman girls' soccer squad to end the 2001 season, the Elizabethton Lady Cyclones didn't mince words when spelling out their objectives for the 2002 season.
   Those goals were to go farther and play better than the previous year. Mission accomplished.
   "I don't think the girls put any pressure on themselves with saying those things," said head coach Bill McClay. "I think the girls really felt that they could get to the next level. They thought, that at first, you could just get back on the train and things would happen the same way as they did the previous season and they found out in the early part of the season that it isn't that way.
   "To their credit though, they began to look at how they played as a team and began to get past those initial difficulties and became a lot more consistent."
   The Lady Cyclones finished with an 8-7 mark (3-1 conference) and were not a team that anyone wanted to play in the postseason.
   EHS played with heart, desire and determination - showing plenty of those characteristics in a steady rain in Gatlinburg - to reach the Regional Final against University High with a gutsy 3-2 win.
   "We got past not having beaten UH, in the regular season," commented McClay. "In the District and the Region finals I think we showed that we can stand toe-to-toe with UH. Both games went to overtime and both were physical games that showed how exciting this sport can be."
   EHS sophomore Samantha McClay - who will own all the school records when she is finished - scored 31 goals in a stellar campaign in which she put the team on her shoulders at times, and that had a motivating effect throughout the squad.
   In her two year prep career McClay has put an astonishing 58 goals into enemy nets and with another two years left at Betsy, McClay will have her name all over the EHS record books.
   Junior Ashley Green and McClay began to show a chemistry on the field that produced some of the finest looking plays you can have on a soccer field.
   Green's assist to McClay in the rain in Gatlinburg was almost as nice a play as the goal itself as Green split two defenders with her pass right onto the foot of McClay who tallied.
   "The last three games we played were some of the most exciting games to be a part of and to watch," McClay said.
   A heart-breaking 3-2 loss in the Region Finals against University High showed the teams' fire and determination as McClay tallied the tying goal with mere seconds left in regulation and showed the Lady Bucs that EHS was in it to win.
   After the contest Lady Bucs head coach Val Love had high praise for the Cyclones saying, "My hat is off to them. They never let up thinking they could win, and with the number of players they have coming back, this could become the next great rivalry in this area. I hope so. They are a challenging team to play."
   EHS loses just two seniors from this squad - Abby Bremer and Tracey Smith - two players who were invaluable on the defensive end of the field for Betsy.
   "We will have a junior-laden team next year," said McClay. "And we bring back a lot of experience. The seniors will be missed and we will need someone to step up and replace them. Abby was our last line of defense and she rarely was out of position. Tracey was solid wherever I asked her to play."
   Youngsters like Farrah Fritz gained valuable playing time and performed well. Fritz began to assert herself a bit more as the season went on - this is not a sport for shrinking violets after all - and began to push the ball upfield more.
   With injured starters like Ashley Mottern hopefully returning along with the solid core of sophomore's and juniors on the squad Betsy could see a trip to the State in the next two seasons.
   Mottern suffered a broken leg in the game against UH, but was playing the game of her career, and is a player with a lot of upside. Her return to health would be a boost to the program.
   Other returnees that will provide a boost are Laurean Hughes, Cassidy Hyatt, Leslie Blowers, Shayna Borland and Katie Presnell just to name a few.
   "We should bring back a very similar team to this year," McClay said. "We had a few girls from last year that we thought would play but didn't, but if nothing similar to that occurs I think we will bring back a team with a lot of potential."
   One thing the Lady Cyclones showed all season was dignity in defeat and grace in victory and McClay said of that team trait, "I think the girls carried themselves well and represented the school and the community very well. I hope they made the school and the community proud of their efforts."