McMinn Central battled its way to a district title game berth and punched its ticket to the regional tournament with a contentious 3-0 win over visiting Sequoyah in the first round of the District 7-AA tournament on Tuesday.
The loss eliminated the Lady Chiefs from postseason play and ended their season altogether.
“Our game Tuesday was probably the best I had seen them play all season,” Sequoyah head coach Lindsey Liszeski said. “Their hearts and heads were in the right place. We held Central to 0-0 at the half.
“The emotions were strong after the game when it didn’t go our way, but they should be proud of the game they played and the sportsmanship that they showed throughout the evening and season.”
There were numerous hard fouls committed by both teams and a few fans let their displeasure be known, but after a scoreless first half, the Chargerettes kept their composure and pulled away.
“It’s always spirited when Central and Sequoyah play,” Central coach Travis Tuggle said. “They changed up their attack a bit. They took their starting goalie and moved her up front and used their backup goalie. They relied on a lot of counter attacks and long balls and I thought we defended them exceptionally well.”
Despite going into the half tied 0-0 against a team that Central defeated 4-1 in the regular season, Tuggle wasn’t that alarmed.
“No, I wasn’t worried,” Tuggle said. “Their midfielders were doing a lot of running and I knew they would get tired. We should probably have had five or six goals, but their goalie did a good job.”
Sure enough, the Chargerettes came through. The first goal came from Emma Grace Tuggle. Then came a penalty kick by Carlee Rule and then an outside shot by Kellan Baker.
The two teams played a physical first half with several hard fouls on both sides as the officials let the physical play go. Central started controlling possession halfway through the first half and finished with five first-half shots, but Sequoyah’s goalkeeper made several nice saves. The rough play continued for much of the second half, but the Chargerettes broke through with a goal with 35:06 left in the game. Central had a corner kick — one of seven on the night — and there was a scramble in front of the net. Emma Grace Tuggle blasted in a shot from close range to give Central a 1-0 lead.
The Lady Chiefs had a good chance to tie the game with 30:20 to play off a set piece, but Chargerettes’ goalkeeper Stonie Fox made the save. A short time after, with 27:56 to play, Rule was tripped up in the box. She drilled the penalty kick to put Central up 2-0.
Fox made another good save with nine minutes to play to uphold Central’s two-goal lead. The Chargerettes upped that lead to 3-0 with 5:43 to play when Baker fired a low outside shot that hit back corner of the net.
Rule got the assist. Central dominated possession and had 19 shots on goal compared to six for Sequoyah.
Fox made four saves for the Chargerettes.
Offseason to hold personnel, coaching changes
Despite their season ending with Tuesday’s loss, Liszeski is proud of what the Lady Chiefs accomplished this season.
“When (assistant coach) Walter (Liszeski) and I took over this program three years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into,” Lindsay Liszeski said. “What I got was a group of amazing girls that I have grown to love like my own. These girls were all in on and off the field. I am so proud of them. This season was tough for a lot of reasons on and off the field, but these girls showed up every day and never complained.”
Lindsay Liszeski said Sequoyah’s offseason will entail roster and staff changes. Walter Lisezki won’t return to the program next year.
“Walter has hung up his whistle and does not plan on returning as a coach next season,” Lindsay Liszeski said. “He is an awesome coach, and has done great things with these girls. This season, we added Robert Koch to the coaching staff. He has been a wonderful addition to our team. As far as I am concerned, I will still be around. I am not a coach. I can’t do what Walter and Robert have done. We are losing eight seniors this year and a coach, but we still have awesome girls with lots of heart who are looking forward to next year.”