MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Kennedy Ethridge and the Signal Mountain girls' soccer team picked up right where they left off last year at the Class A state tournament.
Ethridge, who had the lone goal as the Lady Eagles beat Merrol Hyde in the 2018 championship match, jump-started Signal Mountain's run at a repeat by scoring first in the sixth minute of a 3-0 victory over Madison Magnet in Wednesday's state quarterfinals.
Signal Mountain (14-7) returns to the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex for the semifinals at 8 p.m EST Thursday. The Lady Eagles will take on Cosby (16-4-1), which won 7-0 against Westview (12-2) on Wednesday. In the other semifinal, Alcoa (13-5) — which won 1-0 against Merrol Hyde (14-4-1) — will face Adamsville (13-2-1), a 1-0 winner against McKenzie (11-4-1).
As the Lady Eagles try to earn a third straight appearance in the title game, Ethridge is part of the push thanks in part to her own determination.
"I suffered two pretty severe concussions early in the season and had to sit out for the whole regular season, basically," the senior said. "I stayed on top of my physical therapy for my team. I had something to get back for and something to fight for. I wanted to be here and fight for my family."
After Ethridge got things started, the Lady Eagles added to their lead when Kara Wilson applied defensive pressure, took the ball away on a rollout from the keeper and hammered it into the net in the 21st minute.
"Having Kennedy back on the front line has really helped a lot," said Lady Eagles coach Richard Northcutt, whose team made the most of its seven shots during the first half. "Kara's pressure was big, too, for us. She is unusually fast, and it seemed like she ran 10,000 miles an hour to steal that ball and score a big goal for us.
"We were nervous at the beginning even though we have been here before. Once we scored, we were able to relax and conserve some energy. We did get a little bit lucky in the second half because they had a shot hit the crossbar and a few roll right past the front of the net."
Madison Magnet (9-8-2) created consistent pressure in the second half, but Signal Mountain junior goalkeeper Reilly Furr came up with big stops that included a diving save to her right.
Now they'll try to add one more win and secure a spot in Saturday's title match.
"We have to prove ourselves wrong," Ethridge said. "Sometimes we doubt ourselves and don't have as much confidence as we should. I know we can reach the sky when we play like we know how to. If you work hard, you can do anything you want to do."