published Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

East Hamilton Lady Hurricanes soccer team fought to return

Kelsey Robinson of Cleveland High School, left, looks to thwart an advancing Chandler Smith of East Hamilton at the Hurricanes' home field.
Kelsey Robinson of Cleveland High School, left, looks to thwart an advancing Chandler Smith of East Hamilton at the Hurricanes' home field.
Photo by Alex Washburn.
REGION TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE

Today's matches

• Region 3-A/AA

McMinn Central at East Hamilton, 4:30

Arts & Sciences at Grace Academy, 7

• Region 4-A/AA

Notre Dame at Livingston Academy, 5

Central Magnet at Chattanooga Christian, 7

• Region 3-AAA

Warren County at Soddy-Daisy, 7

It's easy to feel as though the East Hamilton girls' soccer team is in a similar position as last year. Yet even though the title of district champions remains the same, the Lady Hurricanes took a much different route to get there, and there's a much different feel around the program this year.

The Lady Hurricanes claimed their first-ever district championship in 2010, only to fall 1-0 to District 5-A/AA runner-up Boyd-Buchanan in the region semifinals. The loss prevented East Hamilton, 14-4-2 and ranked eighth in the state at the time, from further extending a promising season.

"This team has battled through more adversity than any team I've ever been around," coach John Millard said. "Even in the past couple weeks, the girls have kept a positive attitude and done a good job of holding one another accountable.

"We're excited to be in the position again to play for the region finals."

After playing the past two seasons at the Redoubt Soccer Complex, the 2011 Lady 'Canes started playing matches on the East Hamilton campus. They also benefited from the hiring of assistant coach Carrie Hill, who prepped and most recently coached at Arts & Sciences.

"She's been great for the team," Millard said. "She's somebody that I can bounce ideas off of, her knowledge of the game is great, and the girls really respond well to her."

The Lady Hurricanes (11-6-1) will host 10th-ranked McMinn Central (10-7-2) today at 4:30 p.m. in a Region 3-A/AA semifinal.

East Hamilton had to deal with the dismissal of forward Sydney Reason, who was the area's leading scorer with 30 goals a year ago, before the start of the season. Yinka Ladapo, who scored the goal in the Lady Hurricanes' 1-0 defeat of Arts & Sciences last Thursday, and Chandler Smith lead the team in goals with 11 apiece, and Smith has a team-high eight assists.

Goalkeeper Kendra Ivins was the district player of the year.

"I think it's created opportunities for other girls to step up," Millard said. "We've seen different girls step up in different games, but not just in our offense. It's been all over the field. We've seen a number of challenges and situations which have provided opportunities.

"When we've needed someone to step in and play well, it's been neat to see some of the young girls step in and seize the moment. We don't hang our hat on one player; we're just excited who's going to be the person to step up today."

The other Region 3-A/AA semifinal pits CSAS (8-7) at Grace Academy (11-6-1). In Region 4-A/AA, defending state champion Notre Dame (5-10-3) travels to Livingston Academy (9-5-1), while District 7 champion Chattanooga Christian will host upstart Central Magnet (8-4-2).

Soddy-Daisy (15-2-2) hosts Warren County (16-4) in Region 3-AAA play today. Cleveland played Monday night at Cookeville.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports.

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