MURFREESBORO Although a postponement extended the wait by a day, the Hendersonville High girls soccer team’s stay at the state tournament was short-lived.
Houston scored two early goals and the Lady Commandos were unable to close the gap, suffering a 5-0 loss in the Class AAA State Tournament quarterfinals on Thursday evening at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
Hendersonville (15-5-3) fell behind just 2:16 into the match as Jillian Hildreth’s unassisted gave the Lady Mustangs (20-0) an early lead.
“We were ready for them,” Lady Commando senior Maddie Kimler said. “But (Houston) came out ready and they were stepping to every 50-50 ball. I guess that caught us off guard.”
Hildreth did more damage just 4:08 later, finding space in the penalty area and beating Hendersonville junior goalkeeper Mackensie Cotter with a shot to the top right corner.
“It’s very difficult to simulate what Houston does in training,” Hendersonville head coach Russ Plummer said. “We tried to go right at them, but trying to simulate their speed, their strength and their size, you just can’t do it.”
The Lady Commandos, who were making their first state tournament appearance since 2006, had a couple of chances to cut the lead in half before halftime.
Hendersonville drew a foul in the box, but junior Sydney Cason was unable to convert the ensuing penalty kick. She shot low to the left side, but Houston goalkeeper Kaylee Hammer went with it and made a diving save.
“That one’s on me,” Plummer said. “I probably should have sent somebody else to hit it, because (Houston head coach David Wolff) scouted it well and he knew where (Cason) wanted to hit it.”
Senior Barrett Baugh’s shot from the right side hit the crossbar in the final minute of the first half.
Paola Ellis, Jenna Kemp and Meg Anderson added second-half goals for the Lady Mustangs.
Cotter made five saves on 10 shots on goal, while Hammer stopped all four Hendersonville shots on goal.
“I thought we limited (Houston’s) opportunities,” Plummer said. “They were threatening, but I didn’t think they had much that was dangerous after those two goals (in the first half).”
Houston has outscored opponents 107-3 this season, including an earlier meeting with the Lady Commandos in the Rivals Tournament in Memphis. Houston defeated Hendersonville by a 5-0 margin on Sept. 13.
“Of course, there were nerves (coming in), because it was Houston,” Kimler said. “Their record says a lot about them. We played them before, so we knew what to expect. We were nervous, but we were ready to play.”
The match was postponed one day due to poor field conditions following persistent rain during the early portion of the week.
Plummer said the disappointment of not advancing will likely stick around for a while, but returning to the state tournament is a step forward for the program.
“Other people can disagree with me, but the greatest feeling in the world as a coach is to win the state championship,” Plummer said. “The second-greatest feeling is to be in the state tournament. There’s not much difference in losing now, or tomorrow, or Saturday. It’s still a hollow, empty feeling.”
Hendersonville will lose six seniors to graduation – Kimler, Baugh, Jessica Newton, Layne Massey, Ali Farell and Elizabeth Burns.
“Just great leaders,” Plummer said. “They used the example they learned from years past of what to do and how to do it. They took us to where we wanted to go.”
Kimler added, “It’s been awesome. This has been, by far, my favorite out of the four years, just because of how close our team was, and of course getting here. We didn’t get the result we wanted, but the fact that we made it here for the first time in nine years is huge.”
It was the 18th shutout for Houston, who advanced to face Maryville in Friday’s semifinals.
“This will hurt for a while, and it should, because they’re competitive,” Plummer said. “At the same time, they’re going to look back and realize that they did some great things this year.”
Reach Chris Brooks at 615-575-7118 or on Twitter @CB_SumnerSports.