WHITE HOUSE The White House High School girls soccer team allowed nine goals in each of its first two matches this season, surrendering a total of 26 goals over its first four contests this fall.
A lot has changed since then.
The Lady Devils allowed just three goals over their first five postseason matches, helping them to follow up their District 9 A-AA Tournament title by winning the Region 5 A-AA Tournament with a 3-1 victory over cross-town rival White House Heritage on Thursday evening.
“That fire is lit in us,” White House senior forward Brittney Breedlove said. “At first, (the goal) was district champs six years in a row. Now, it’s region champs. There’s never been a team to be district champs, region champs and get to the state. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
The Lady Devils are 12-0-1 over their last 13 matches.
“The formation we had the first couple of games wasn’t working,” Breedlove said. “You could see it when we lost to Beech (a 9-2 setback on Aug. 20).
“We grew as a team over the weeks. We got close.”
The Lady Devils last loss was a 6-1 setback to visiting Harpeth Hall on Sept. 8. Since then, the only blemish is a 4-4 tie against visiting White House Heritage on Sept. 29.
“From the regular season (match) to the district tournament, it was good for the freshmen,” White House head coach Mike Felzien said. “They were a (nervous) wreck (when the two teams played during the regular season). We learned a lot from that first match, how to play them. We had a strategy going into the district tournament.”
White House (15-3-3) captured a 5-1 victory over the Lady Patriots when the nearby foes met in the District 9 A-AA championship match one week earlier.
“They changed their formation on us in this one,” Felzien said. “It took us a while to adjust to what they were doing to us. Once they understood that, that’s when you saw a little separation in the last 20 minutes or so.”
Breedlove added, “We were all nervous. They’ve never beaten us. It’s nervous, but once we get out there, we play as a team. It’s so great to win playing as a team.”
Breedlove played an early ball up to sophomore forward Madisson Davis, who carried it toward the right post before firing a diagonal shot into the left side of the net.
White House Heritage senior Meagan Smith hit the crossbar with a shot from approximately 22 yards away in the 14th minute, and classmate Faith Williamson’s rebound opportunity was smothered by Lady Devil freshman goalkeeper Alivia Vogel.
White House freshman midfielder Shelby Deering redirected a free kick by classmate Leanna Nesbitt off of the crossbar later in the half.
The Lady Patriots (13-6-3) tied the match just 70 seconds into the second half, when sophomore Callie Jo Roach played a ball that bounced into the box and was redirected into the net by Smith.
“They’ve matured a lot this year,” Felzien said of his freshman-laden squad. “They’re no longer freshman at this point. This is their second season.
“One thing we stress is that when we get scored on, our heads don’t go down … they go up.”
Breedlove hit the post with a left-footed shot in the 49th minute, and Williamson missed a breakaway opportunity that slid wide of an open net one minute later.
Shortly thereafter, Lady Devil sophomore midfielder Mallory Humphries played a ball ahead to Breedlove, who broke free and fired a shot past oncoming sophomore goalkeeper Addison Holmes and into the center of the net.
“We just needed that fire to be relit,” Breedlove said. “I kind of gave a speech at halftime, and Coach (Felzien) gave a speech. We had to say, ‘hey, this is our game. We’re not going to lose.’”
Then, White House freshman midfielder Mazie Burrow played a ball into the box less than two minutes later, and Breedlove tried to gain possession. However, the ball squirted free and found the foot of Deering, who converted on the opportunity to create a two-goal advantage.
“It’s neat to see,” Felzien said. “We had those freshmen, and they have talent. I saw that when they came in. They’ve had good coaching. We had to try to get the chemistry. We had the bus, but it took us a while to put the right person in the right seat.
“For such a young team, it’s such a tight team. It’s pretty amazing.”
The Lady Devils won the program’s fifth region title, capturing a 3-0 victory over White House Heritage in the 2013 region final (the Lady Patriot program’s only other appearance in a regional championship match).
“The difference totally is mentality,” White House Heritage head coach Rett Roach said. “It’s Vanderbilt/Tennessee (football) in the 1990s.
“I wish they would quit calling this a rivalry. We’ve never beat them. It’s the little sister mentality. It’s going to take some group to get tired of (losing to end the streak against White House).”
With the win, the Lady Devils earned the opportunity to host Page in one of the eight Class A-AA sectional matches on Saturday. Page suffered a 6-1 loss to Christ Presbyterian Academy in Thursday evening’s Region 6 A-AA Tournament final.
White House’s only state appearance came in 2012, when the Lady Devils rolled to a 5-1 win at Page in the sectional round.
The loss forced the Lady Patriots to travel to Nashville on Saturday to face CPA in their sectional. White House Heritage suffered a 4-1, sectional loss at CPA in 2013.
White House has made four consecutive sectional appearances.
“I don’t know if I’ve had a team who wins the district and wins the region, especially going against your cross-town rival,” Felzien – the 18th-year head coach who returned to the sideline after missing Tuesday evening’s 4-1 win over visiting Hume-Fogg after being hospitalized for five days due to a medical issue – said. “It makes it that much tougher. They’re a quality team. We knew it was going to be tough, and it was. I’m pleasantly surprised (with the success).”
Breedlove, Davis, Vogel and Lady Devil freshman defender Allyson Trimmer were joined on the all-tournament team by Lady Patriot junior defender Jackie Davis, White House Heritage senior midfielder Shelby Bobot and Lady Patriot eighth-grade defender Alex Green.
Reach Craig Harris at 615-575-7138 or on Twitter @HarrisGNESports.