The word traveled fast during the spring that the Chattanooga Football Club women's team was going to fold.
Gretchen Hammel was having none of it.
Hammel, who is also the head coach at Grace Academy, worked along with fellow 2014 team member Kristina Heredia to do everything possible to ensure a women's team would be fielded during 2015, and the work has panned out. The CFC women take the Finley Stadium pitch at 5:30 today for their season-opening match against FC Academy of Nashville.
Only six women's games have been set up, according to the club's website, but it's still a schedule to be completed. In their initial season, the CFC women finished 5-4-2, falling in the Southeast Division playoff semifinals.
Hammel made some calls within the Women's Premier Soccer League to see if the players could put the team together themselves. She and Heredia helped raise money for the club, and they received a boost from the CFC men, who were excited about the idea of the women coming back and also helped raise money.
"It's huge because we get to be CFC again," Hammel said earlier this week. "We had such a good year last year that it was such a shame that it was heading toward ending so quickly, so we decided to give it the best shot we could."
She said they found out in March that the club was folding, because "the vision of the club wasn't unified." The league gave the club a short time frame to get everything done, and Hammel went to work immediately finding a staff and contacting potential prospects.
She found Soddy-Daisy's Moises Drumond to be the head coach, with East Hamilton's Carrie Hill and Notre Dame's Jim Schermerhorn working as his assistants.
Kelly Downs, one of the returning players, played at Soddy-Daisy under Drumond.
"He is a really good coach, and I'd prefer him over any other coach," Downs said. "I trust him; he's not biased to players, cares about the girls and wants us to do the best that we can."
The team will have a local feel to it this season, as Hammel estimated that one-third of the players on the 2014 club returned. Lanter sisters Anna, Claire and Summer -- who all also played at Soddy-Daisy -- are on the team, along with players who prepped at Cleveland, Notre Dame, Chattanooga Christian and Baylor.
"It's good that we have players staying in Chattanooga instead of going other places, because there was a bad reputation that there wasn't a lot of talent in the city," Downs said. "We want to show there are a lot of good girls in the city. It makes us all proud to play for Chattanooga, because a lot of us grew up playing together.
"It's nice to have a majority of the girls from here, but we also have a few players from out of town that are a great addition to the team."
So after hearing there was a "90 percent chance" there wouldn't even be a team at all this season, the CFC women will be back due to the tireless hours put in by Hammel.
"It's awesome," Downs said. "I can't wait."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.