When opposites attack
There have been many opposites throughout history. Yin and Yang, chocolate and vanilla, conservative and liberal. You can also add the Thomas Jefferson and Hendersonville women’s soccer programs to that list.
These differences will be on display tonight as TJCA (13-5-1) takes its finesse brand of soccer to Hendersonville to do battle with the physical style of the Lady Bearcats (18-3-2) in the Western Regional semifinals of the NCHSAA playoffs.
“There are two ways you can play soccer,” said TJCA head coach Brian Espinoza. “We play a more finesse, possession orientated game and they are a very physical team. Hendersonville is very good at what they do and we are very good at what we do. Both teams know that. It’s just going to come down to which team executes their style best.”
Physicality won over finesse during the first two Western Highland match-ups this season. The Bearcats claimed a pair of one-goal decisions, 1-0 and 2-1.
The Gryphons’ struggles with the Bearcats date back to TJCA’s first year of NCHSAA competition in 2009. During those seasons, the Lady Gryphons have only garnered two wins against their rival, but one of those victories came during the 2012 postseason.
“We have struggled with Hendersonville in the past because we have a hard time with their physical style,” said Espinoza. “The team does have a lot of confidence knowing that we did beat them in the playoffs last year, though. They know it can be done and they are excited for this challenge.”
TJCA’s confidence grew even more, thanks to their 3-0 win Saturday over East Montgomery.
“I’m really proud of the way the team has been playing lately,” said Espinoza. “Being a wild card really has taken the pressure off of them because no one expects them to go very far. They are playing so relaxed.”
He hopes that relaxed play will continue tonight.
“I told the team that all the pressure is on Hendersonville. They are the number one seed. They are the ones who are playing at home and they are trying to beat us for a third time this year. We have nothing to lose. We are the underdogs. All we have to do is go out, play soccer, and have some fun.”
According to Espinoza, the players won’t be the only ones having fun, while using college basketball terms to describe the magnitude of the match.
“This is a dream match-up for coaches and fans too,” he said. “Anytime you have two teams with exact opposite approaches to the game, it makes exciting soccer. When you add that we are playing in the elite eight, with a chance to go to the final four, it doesn’t get much better than that.”
Kickoff for the match is set for 6:30 p.m.