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Former Lady Rebel Oliver, Nashville WPSL club reach Final Four

The WPSL’s Nashville Rhythm celebrate the club reaching the league’s Final Four after a win last week. Former Maryville Lady Rebel Grace Oliver is front row, second from left. Photos curtesy of Nashville Rhythm

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Fast, elite power on her shot, Grace Oliver left Maryville three years ago one of the best goal scorers Blount County high school soccer has ever known.

The fact the Lipscomb senior and former Lady Rebel has spent her summer patrolling the defensive third for the Nashville Rhythm says a great deal about the Women’s Premier Soccer League club. In short, the Rhythm have become one of the nation’s best.

Oliver leans into a blast for Nashville during a match this summer.

“Grace is one of the hardest workers on the team and she’s able to fill different roles for us,” Rhythm coach Scott Davidson said. “Right back, left back, winger, she’s done a great job for us.”

The Rhythm (9-1-1) defeated the AHFC Royals in a WPSL quarterfinal last week. The win sends the Nashville franchise on to WPSL Final Four this weekend in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

The Rhythm meet the California Storm in one semifinal on Friday at 6 p.m. CST. The Colorado Rapids vie with SJEB FC for the other championship spot at 8:15.

The championship is scheduled for Sunday at 7:30.

Eleven Sports has the stream.

The WPSL is the league of choice for many top collegians and internationals looking to keep their game sharp over the summer months. Comprised of more than 50 clubs nationally, the WPSL offers a way to hone your game during the offseason like few others can, Oliver said.

“You can lose your pace pretty quickly,” she said. “Touch, game fitness can be lost quickly if you don’t play. You can tell the people who decided to play summer. It’s a good release, along with keeping your touch and your fitness.”

Clubs are limited in the number of college teammates any one team can have on its roster, along with the number of international players.

“We have a group of girls from a bunch of different countries and colleges,” said Oliver, who’ll graduate from Lipscomb in December and enroll in graduate school.

There’s no roster stacking in the WPSL, which leads to competitive, well-played games at every outing, Oliver said. Player development is key, many of the league’s players finding their way to the professional level after college.

Rhythm playmaker Peyton DePriest, one of the team’s leaders this season, will be unavailable this weekend after signing a contract with a professional club in France.

Nashville should still have plenty of firepower on hand. Strikers Keito Ido, Molly Grant, Raegan Kelley and DePriest paced a Rhythm attack that lit up opposing defenses for 51 goals in its 11 matches, producing a plus 39 goal differential. Oliver played a big part in that, Davidson said.

“Grace has a high IQ for the game,” he said. “She understands what the team needs.

“We always look for a specific kind of player, but also the right characteristics to buy into your system.”

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