published Sunday, May 18th, 2014

Chattanooga Football Club women have area flavor, big age span

Gretchen Hammel, center, and other Chattanooga Football Club women move a goal during practice Thursday at Chattanooga Christian School.
Gretchen Hammel, center, and other Chattanooga Football Club women move a goal during practice Thursday at Chattanooga Christian School.

Any resentment harbored by former Notre Dame soccer standout Jaimee Cooper toward former Christian Academy of Knoxville standout Laura Novikoff since 2006 has been laid to rest.

"She beat us in the semifinals of the state tournament my senior year," Cooper recalled recently.

Both are part of the newly formed Chattanooga Football Club women's team, which will play its first-ever match today at 1 p.m. in hosting Mississippi Fuego FC at Finley Stadium. The CFC women will play a 10-match schedule in their first season, with five matches at home.

The team has a wide range in age. The youngest member is rising Baylor junior Chloe Maize, who already has committed to the University of Georgia. It will also have an area flavor with players from Baylor, Chattanooga Christian, Cleveland, Girls Preparatory School, Grace Academy, McMinn County and Notre Dame on the roster.

"We have had quite a few people who are interested in who's on the team, and when I start telling them about the local girls, they get excited because they want to come watch so-and-so play," CFC coach Patrick Winecoff said. "I definitely think that'll be a big draw for a lot of people in Chattanooga.

"Plus we span age groups. We have some high school players, but we also have some girls that have been out of school for six to eight years, so you have moms and dads and those who went to school with them that are aware of various players along that time frame, and they are interested to see them."

Winecoff said the team will have an attacking style of play, with everybody attacking from the forwards to the backs.

"If we don't score in the first half, it won't be because we weren't up by the box," he said.

Cooper, a center midfielder, was a three-time all-state honoree at Notre Dame (2004-06). She went on to play four seasons at Middle Tennessee State University before recently moving back home. She looks at this new venture as a great opportunity.

"Once I went to college, I didn't think I would have an opportunity to play at another level, so it's great to come back and see the support that Chattanooga offers -- especially on the women's side," Cooper said. "I'm looking forward to a fun atmosphere and competitiveness. It's going to be good to get back to the competitive nature, because I've missed that for four years and it's nice to be back.

"We have some great players with a mix of younger others and other girls that have college experience, so it's nice to feel like we can mentor the younger girls on the field but at the same time get their youthful spirit on the field as well."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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