Blount Press Row

Lefty

Lady Rebels wrong foot Farragut to reach title match

Maryville senior Abbey Kolarik lofts a free kick toward goal in a match earlier this season. Photos by Wallace Bowden

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

The consensus has maybe one of four teams winning the Class AAA state championship later this month.

Two of them meet for the District 4AAA championship tonight at Hardin Valley.

Kickoff is 7 p.m.

Maryville (15-1-3) and the host Lady Hawks (11-5-3) are both chasing Houston, the nation’s No. 1-ranked team in high school girls soccer.

It’s rumored the Mustangs spend their summers in England, you know, training.

The Lady Rebels fell, 3-1, to Houston in the Bearden tournament earlier this season. Hardin Valley fell prey, 3-0, the same weekend.

Some things have changed for the Lady Rebels since that likely state tournament preview, most notably the loss of senior midfielder Jade Seery to a knee injury in a match with Farragut in September.

“It was a significant loss,” Maryville coach Steve Feather said. “We’ve had a rollercoaster with injuries all year.”

Seery’s speed on the outside did wonders to spread the field for Maryville strikers Grace Oliver and Reyna Coston.

Grace Oliver contorts on a difficult shot against William Blount.

“We’re having to do more than what we were used to up top,” Oliver said. “We can’t rely on (Seery’s) crosses. She’s such a key player.”

Regrouped, Oliver and Coston, who missed four games herself this season with injury, are back on record pace. Oliver’s 25 goals has her within striking distance of a record once thought unapproachable. Coston, 21 goals, 11 assists, is right there, too.

“As we inch closer to the finish line, we’re starting to get healthy,” Feather said.

If either gets there, it’ll be a team effort.

It starts at the back for the Lady Rebels. Defenders Rachel Reid, Katie Cunningham and Abbey Kolarik, the reigning Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Year, have each delivered All-State calibre seasons. With goalkeepers Karly Wolford and Grayson Patterson minding the net, Maryville has shut out 14 of its 19 opponents.

Check out the state’s defensive leaders at CoachT.com.

There’s the added plus Kolarik is like few defenders any opponent has ever seen.

“Abbey Kolarik can fly forward,” Feather said. “With her speed, if you try to key in on our wingers, her and Katie Cunningham can really get up there. We’ve got a great back line.”

Katie Cunningham makes her way through the handshake line.

Key in linking that defense with the goal scorers at the other end is senior midfielder Emma Rice. Quick thinking — and even better timing — has produced a playmaker of the first rank. With a deep roster of Aaliyah Vananda, Ashlynn Taylor, Audrey Lovin, Clara McKinnis and Ella McCallum all stepping forward to compensate for Seery’s loss, Maryville looks back at full speed.

“It’s a bunch of selfless kids where, at every bump in the road, we’ve found a way,” Feather said.

The Lady Admirals and Lady Rebels staged a do-over sans Seery in a district semifinal on Tuesday. Oliver powered up to knock home two goals in a 3-0 Maryville win. A strike that didn’t result in a goal — on a no-look leave from Vananda — is must-see video.

Kolarik put it away with a goal late, touching the ball over to her non-dominant left foot to smash a real gem from the half circle to bring the house down.

“It’s something I’ve been working on for college,” the Samford commitment said. “It’s an advantage.”

Sure is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *