STATE TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
(All Times Eastern)
Tuesday, May 20
At Richard Siegel Soccer Complex
Class A/AA State Quarterfinals
• Signal Mountain vs. Christian Academy of Knoxville, 8
Wednesday, May 21
At Richard Siegel Soccer Complex
Division II-AA State Semifinals
• Baylor vs. Father Ryan, 5:30
There hasn't been anything flashy about them, and at times there has been very little pretty about the way the Signal Mountain soccer Eagles have played this season, but one thing can't be disputed.
They are undefeated and one of the final eight teams remaining in the state.
Class A/AA's top-ranked team is taking a 17-0-2 record to Murfreesboro for the soccer portion of the TSSAA Spring Fling, where they will face two-time defending champion and second-ranked Christian Academy of Knoxville in the quarterfinals tonight at 8 EDT at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
First-year Signal coach Richard Northcutt has guided his team to the tournament with a combination of heart and determination, mixed in with some skill. The Eagles have been led by a standout goalkeeper, a solid defense and some solid pieces that have done well in the attack. The blend has helped the Eagles advance past the district semifinals for the first time in the six-year history of the school.
The team experienced success early, with a win over fellow state-tournament participant Baylor and a tie against Georgia Class AAAA state semifinalist Southeast Whitfield. That helped the Eagles when they entered district play and matches against perennial powers Chattanooga Christian and Notre Dame -- both of whom they defeated, the former twice.
"The difference is that we've been playing together as a unit, and that's helped us improve a lot," senior defender Alex Greer said. "The past few years, CCS and Notre Dame have been really strong teams, and we competed with them, but only two teams are able to get out of our district and this year we were able to beat both. Our effort's been huge. Against Baylor, our effort and aggressiveness kept us in the game -- especially defensively, because they're a great team."
Northcutt has simplified things for the Eagles. There has been no pre-match scouting of opponents, which includes their opponent this evening. Instead, he's focused on making minimal tweaks to his team that will improve them on a day-in, day-out basis.
"We have too many problems to go out scouting, so we don't have to worry about what someone else can do," Northcutt said. "My attitude is that if we get up there and do our best, we will be OK, and if we don't do our best or there's a little slack, the problem's ours. The problem is making sure that we're as good as we're going to be."
The attack has been led by forwards Conner Apthorp, who has 16 goals and 18 assists, and Josh Patta, who also has 16 goals. Midfielder Robert Schorr, who has nine goals, said the Eagles aren't worried about their opponent, rather more focused on themselves.
"I guess they're tough," Schorr said of CAK. "I haven't seen them. They're two-time champions, but they could have lost some people from those teams. If we win state this year and make it back next year, we'll be without nine guys.
"It's going to be really exciting to finally go to state instead of talking about it. It'll take hustle to win -- nothing special, no fancy plays, just wanting it more than them. We know that if we don't win that it's over, so we'll just have to outfight them."
Said Greer: "I don't know how to take it [going to state] so far. I just sit there at night and think about it, and it's really exciting because it's new and we haven't experienced it before."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.