Loss leaves TJCA playoff hopes in question
The Thomas Jefferson Gryphon women's soccer team entered the contest against the Hendersonville Bearcats needing a victory to sure up their playoff hopes but fell short losing in the second overtime period 2-1 Monday.
The Gryphons have an overall record of 11-7-1 but all seven losses are in their conference placing them on the playoff bubble and needing wins.
“If we would have won this game I believe that we would have gotten in,” said TJCA head coach Brian Espinoza. “Hendersonville is already in. We needed to win or tie this game because Avery and us will end up with the same conference record. I believe both us would be out if we don't beat Owen.”
The Gryphons looked up to the task as they played the first five minutes in the shadow of the Bearcats goal. Their constant pressure would finally pay off when senior Anna Dedmon took a pass from midfield and split the Bearcats defender and goalie for a 1-0 lead at the 34-minute, 20-second mark.
The play began to heat up as the game progressed resulting in several yellow cards for each team. The physical play finally brought Espinoza off the bench in protest drawing him his own yellow card.
“They play hard but they play dirty,” Espinoza said of Hendersonville. “They are physical but there is a way to play the game. Our kids never play that way. There is a certain level of sportsmanship that you have to play.”
The Gryphon's defense would protect the 1-0 lead until halftime behind four saves from goalie Caroline Longerbeam.
The Gryphons lost focus and momentum in the second half as the Bearcats were quicker to the ball and more aggressive on offense. They would finally break through at the 25:54 mark when Marietta Melendez headed the ball into the Gryphons goal to tie the score 1-1.
The trend would continue throughout the rest of the half as the Bearcats made several shots on goal but were turned away by the Gryphon defense. Regulation would end with the tie knotted at 1-1 and the Gryphons holding onto their playoff hopes.
“They were tired. We lost some energy. Hendersonville deserved to win as far as that aspect of the game goes. It looked they were physically fitter than us in the second half and in the overtime,” Espinoza said.
The Gryphons played defense for the better part of the first overtime and were able to force a second overtime period with neither team able to score.The bubble would burst for the Gryphons at the 8:55 mark when Julila Michels lofted the ball just over the goalie from 15 yards out for the game winning goal.
“They just had more possessions of the ball and they played direct. It's hard to beat that sometimes,” Espinoza said.
Now, Thomas Jefferson are left with the unknown regarding their playoff chances.
“Owens beat us here 3-0 so we got our hands full," Espinoza said. "I'll let our girls know we got to win and they will give their best on Wednesday.”
TJCA seniors, Dedmon, Leah Lineberry, Victoria Bennett, Eleora Albala, Katie Trimble, Kelsey Smith, Longerbeam, and Autumn Ruppe played in front of their home crowd for the last time.