Baylor (10-3-4): The Red Raiders, making their second consecutive state tournament appearance, have been able to take some young and new players, such as OT Bah and Jaakko Nurminen, and mesh them with returnees like forward Ramsay Seagle and keeper Henrique Ribeiro. For the second straight season, however, they'll face a talented Christian Brothers team in the semifinals, having falling 2-0 on a pair of second-half goals last season.
Chattanooga Christian (16-3-2): There are no last names on the backs of the CCS jerseys, but it almost wouldn't matter anyhow because the Chargers have been a team all season, with any player capable of stepping up at any moment. Seniors Carson Whitmire and Will Taylor are the team leaders in scoring, but it was Taylor Black who scored the first goal against East Hamilton in the sectional match and Clark Marshall who headed in a throw-in in overtime.
McCallie (17-2): The Blue Tornado have been led by a dangerous offensive attack that has proved capable of scoring in bunches. Led by forward Hunter Brock, and midfielders Arturo Rocha and Angel Cruz, McCallie has put themselves back in the state semifinals since a runner-up finish in 2010. The large senior class was sophomores then, and remember the sour taste in their mouths after the winning goal was scored on a shot by a Christian Brothers player than took a bad hop in dirt right in front of the goal. They want more this season.
Notre Dame (12-8-1): The Irish are back in the state tournament for the first time since 2007. They've made it this season despite enduring a six-match non win streak early in the year. Mark Koenig and Wes Blanton have been among the team leaders in scoring, although the latter missed time with injury. The Irish defense has been tough, with three consecutive shutouts and two goals allowed in five postseason matches.
At the beginning of every season, coaches of all sports identify games as "must-wins." Usually very high on that list is the school's rival. In some cases, the welfare and job security of the coach secretly hinges on their performance against that particular opponent.
Should Baylor and McCallie, or Chattanooga Christian and Notre Dame meet one more time this season, there'll be a lot more riding on this game. A state championship will be on the line.
The four schools are representing the Chattanooga area in the Spring Fling state soccer championships this week, and have already faced each other on one occasion this season, or in the case of CCS and Notre Dame, three times.
The Irish lead the series 2-1, with a pair of overtime victories this postseason. The Chargers did claim a 1-0 regulation victory, but after the most recent decent, CCS coach Shawn Brower noted how hard the team initially took the loss.
"Those two games were tough," Brower said. "They had opportunities and so did we. After the match, some of the guys were emotional, but I challenged them to suppress those emotions because we weren't done. After the season, we can reminisce and reflect on those matches, but as of right now, we're not done.
"By the time we walked off Notre Dame's field [last Thursday], the guys had the resolve to run on to the next match."
The third-ranked Chargers (16-3-2) will face top-ranked Christian Academy of Knoxville on Tuesday at 8:30 EDT in in the Class A/AA tournament, while the fourth-ranked Irish (12-8-1) will play David Lipscomb at 6:30. The teams are on opposite sides of the bracket, so the only way they can face each other again would be in the state title match on Friday.
In the Division II-AA bracket, fourth-ranked Baylor and top-ranked McCallie have slightly shorter paths to meet each other, but that doesn't make them any easier. The Red Raiders will open play Wednesday at 6 EDT against third-ranked Christian Brothers (14-1), who were Division II-AA state runners-up last season. The team they lost to, fifth-ranked Father Ryan (12-5-1), will play the Blue Tornado at 8:30.
"When I first came to Baylor, we had to realize that this was another game," Baylor coach Curtis Blair said. "When the girls play GPS and the boys play McCallie, it's a big, huge rivalry, and at the end of the day, you want to win those, but I would lose to McCallie if I know I could win state.
"It's good for soccer, though, that we're both going. It's unique in that there are more area high school coaches and players that come to that game than to any other game. We've been battling it out for years, and this year, we're sending four good teams and two big sets of rivals that are pretty good."