THOMPSON’S STATION The Class AAA sectional soccer round has signaled the end of Hendersonville High’s season in each of the last four years.
On Saturday evening, the Lady Commandos broke through in the second half, punching their ticket to the state tournament with a 3-1 victory at Independence.
Not even a halftime deficit kept Hendersonville (15-4-3) down, as junior Sydney Cason scored twice and senior Maddie Kimler also tallied to boost the Lady Commandos to the state tournament for the first time since 2006.
“Honestly, there’s something about going (to the state tournament) my senior year, it’s like ending with a bang,” Kimler said. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t have wanted to go the other three years, but it just makes it that much sweeter.”
Kimler’s goal was the go-ahead score, as she found space at the top of the penalty area after collecting a cross from sophomore Brooke Long. Kimler turned and fired a shot that found the top left corner of the net past Independence senior goalkeeper Sam Colley with 16:16 remaining.
Cason evened the match with 30 minutes remaining, connecting on a free kick from just outside the front left corner of the penalty area. Her low shot curled inside the right post, past a diving Colley.
“The goalkeeper was very tall and the wall was covering the whole left side of the goal,” Cason said. “I just tried to play it low to the right side and hope that she wouldn’t be able to stretch that far. And if she could, I knew I’d have teammates crashing in.”
Cason added her second goal with 11:26 left, after sophomore Haley Stevens drew a foul in the box.
“I tried not to psych myself out,” Cason said of the penalty kick, “especially knowing the stakes. I wanted us to get up another goal, but I just tried not to think about it and just went up and hit it.”
Cason had just moved in from Michigan during the season and has made an immediate impact in the midfield. She has verbally committed to Western Michigan University to play soccer.
“I just came in a month or two ago,” Cason said. “They’ve all been so welcoming and they’re so hard-working. It’s great to come onto a team that all has the same goal in mind. In Michigan, my team never made it this far. This is a special group.”
The second-half surge allowed the Lady Commandos to oust a Williamson County opponent, as teams from District 11-AAA had eliminated Hendersonville in each of the last four years.
“It’s awesome for the program,” Hendersonville head coach Russ Plummer said. “You can’t say enough about these girls and what they do. To be down 1-0 at half and not give up and be so coachable – they just keep fighting and fighting. It’s unbelievable.”
Hendersonville had won nine consecutive matches before suffering a 2-1 loss to Clarksville on Wednesday in the Region 5-AAA championship match.
“They bounced back from losing to Clarksville,” Plummer said. “They were excited to play, very attentive the next two days in training and they wanted to get here.”
Junior goalkeeper Makensie Cotter made eight saves and had a busy evening, also collecting a yellow card after a collision in the first half. She was forced to leave the match for the infraction, with sophomore Mandy Schmidle taking over for approximately 40 seconds until the next substitutions were allowed.
Julie Garst gave the Lady Eagles (13-2-1) a 1-0 lead in the 20th minute, a lead that stood up for the remainder of the first half.
The Lady Commandos will learn of their quarterfinal opponent on Sunday when the brackets are released.
Plummer said it’s a good feeling to get over the hump, for past teams as well.
“They’re not just doing it for themselves,” Plummer said. “They’re doing it for the program, and those teams that couldn’t get here – all those people that write, call and come back to visit. It’s just a program unlike any other that you don’t see everyday.”
The Class AAA State Tournament is slated to begin Wednesday afternoon at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro.
“I’ve probably never felt this happy in my entire life,” Cotter said. “I’m just so happy that we did it.”
Reach Chris Brooks at 615-575-7118 or on Twitter @CB_SumnerSports.