The path to a possible state softball championship in Georgia's Class AAAA amps up tonight at Heritage when No. 1 Northwest Whitfield takes on the No.2-ranked Generals.
The Region 7 rivals are a combined 32-4 this season, and each is undefeated in league play. The Lady Bruins, the defending state champions, handed Heritage four of its six losses last season.
"There the No. 1 team in the state and region and defending state champs, and until somebody knocks them off they're the team to beat," Heritage coach Steve Chattin said. "We've got to approach it as just another ballgame because we have to play them twice in the regular season and maybe two more times in the tournament. It's not do-or-die time for either team, but it's important."
While each team has been strong so far this season, there is one major difference in the lineups -- experience. The Lady Bruins boast six seniors who were key members of last season's title team, including college signees Bayli Cruse and Ashley Conner, while the Generals have one senior and are loaded with freshmen and sophomores.
"We're definitely young, but they've been with us all summer and have grown up a lot," Chattin said. "We've had some talent here, but at 17-3 this team has been the best in achieving the goals we've set to this part of a season. I'll be disappointed if we don't show up and play well tomorrow."
Chrissy McKinney returned to coaching Bradley Central soccer this season after stepping aside for a couple of years. It seems that her return has been well received.
The Bearettes are 5-1 after a 10-2 victory over Polk County on Monday. They've done it with an upswing in offense, as Haley Yarber and Caley Jones each has scored 13 goals, tied for second in the Chattanooga area.
Baylor's Victoria Wicks leads with 15 goals scored.
"I'm just excited to be able to share the passion of the game with these girls," McKinney said. "We have some that have some experience outside of just high school playing, and they were able to build a lot of chemistry over the summer.
"We've been working on using everybody on the field to make us stronger, but we have some players that are capable of firing shots from anywhere."
Sequatchie County also is off to a fast start, winning its first five matches behind the play of Bailey Adams, Chloe Smallwood and Katie Allen. Adams has a team-leading eight goals, while Smallwood and Allen each has six. Smallwood also has four assists for the Lady Indians.
Walker Valley is 3-2 under new coach Nathan Brown, who previously was an assistant for the Lee University men's team. The Lady Mustangs' leading scorer, Jacey Edwards, is only a sophomore, while freshmen Jade Mayo and Mya Patel are tied for second. Patel leads the area in assists with six.
GPS 2nd, Baylor 3rd
GPS has the highest spot of five area soccer teams with state rankings, as the Bruisers are second in the EurosportScoreboard.com soccer rankings for Division II -- one notch ahead of rival Baylor.
Notre Dame is fourth in A/AA, with Chattanooga Christian ninth and Grace Academy 10th.
Tandem this week
The 16th Tennessee Tandem high school volleyball tournament will be held this weekend at GPS, Ooltewah and Baylor. Championships will be decided Saturday with the Gold-bracket final scheduled at GPS at 7 p.m. and the Silver championship match set at Ooltewah at 6.
Action begins with pool play at the three gymnasiums Friday starting at 4 p.m. Seeded pool play will take place at each location Saturday starting at 9 a.m. Single-elimination play will start at about 3 p.m.
Goodpasture (Class AA) and St. Cecilia (Division II-A) are 2012 TSSAA champions in the field of almost 30 teams. Several others were state-tournament participants in various classifications.
"We have a lot of traditionally good teams," GPS coach and tournament director Paul Brock said. "We strive to have better teams and bring in as much talent as possible, so a lot of local teams don't have to travel to play some really good teams."
Contact Lindsey Young at email@example.com or at 423-757-6296.
Lindsey Young is a sports writer at the Chattanooga Times Free Press who started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press 24 years ago. He covers the Northwest Georgia prep beat and NASCAR. Lindsey’s hometown is Ringgold, Ga., and he graduated from Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School. He received an associate’s degree from Dalton Junior College (now Dalton State) and a bachelor’s degree in communications from UTC. He has won several writing awards, including two Tennessee Sports ...