This time around, the Chattanooga Football Club didn't take the foot off the pedal.
The hosts were able to clinch the National Premier Soccer League's Southeast Division title Saturday night with a workmanlike 3-0 victory over the New Orleans Jesters in front of a crowd of 3,101 fans at Finley Stadium.
Chattanooga FC (7-2-2, 6-1-2) will be the top seed when the divisional playoffs begin on July 11 at Finley.
When Chattanooga faced the Jesters in New Orleans on May 31, the visitors grabbed leads of 1-0 and 2-1, only to watch the home team rally for a 3-2 win.
Thibault Charmey assisted the first goal Saturday, feeding Sias Reyneke in the 19th minute for a 1-0 edge. It was Reyneke's third goal in the last two matches. Chris Ochieng added a score in the 27th minute, after Reyneke countered and passed to John Carrier, who got into the teeth of the defense and fed Ochieng for a wide-open shot.
"One of the points we addressed at halftime was how they scored three goals the last time out, so we know that they're a capable team," CFC coach Bill Elliott said. "We knew we couldn't take our foot off the gas; we had to keep playing."
Keeper Greg Hartley was on his game as well, with six saves -- including a diving stop of a Reece Wilson shot in the 30th minute. It was one of a small number of dangerous chances for the Jesters (6-2-2 division), who had defeated the Georgia Revolution 3-0 the previous night in Conyers.
"We had a good performance," Elliott said. "There are a lot of positives we can take away from this match as we move forward. We know that if we face New Orleans again, they'll be better, because when you travel in this league, there are all kinds of challenges."
Niall McCabe put the match away with a penalty kick in the 71st minute after New Orleans was called for a handball in the box.
"We wanted to get the best seed for the playoffs, so we had to stay focused," Charmey said. "With all the talent on this team, once we get a lead we're able to play even more freely.
"Now we can focus on the biggest part of the season -- the playoffs."
Chattanooga FC plays its regular-season home finale at 7:30 p.m. Friday against Rocket City United.
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.