Hixson girls' soccer programView 14 Photos
After scoring just four goals in their previous nine matches, the Hixson Lady Wildcats matched that total in their District 8-AA soccer semifinal.
Seven players either scored or assisted on a goal in Monday's 4-0 victory over East Ridge as a roster back to full health played with poise and tempo.
"We are at full force now," Hixson coach Ashley Harper said. "We have some very dedicated seniors who are not ready for this season to end. With all of our pieces back now, we can be extremely dangerous."
In earning the program's seventh straight appearance in the district championship match, the Lady Wildcats were given an early spark by senior captain Mollie Bishop.
From the left side of midfield, Bishop made a physical run, beating several defenders at her side, and found room to strike a 25-yard shot with her left foot over the keeper's outreached hands into the top left of the net.
"I wanted to help us get to the finals, and I know we all really want to win it," Bishop said. "For us to all come out here and click tonight is exciting. We have really improved our passing and know where we all are on the field. Now we just have to finish."
The Lady Wildcats (5-9-2) added cushion right before halftime when Megan Cline made an outstanding cross to Abbey Lin, whose shot was blocked but rebounded and finished by Perla Leon Gonzalez.
East Ridge (2-8) put up a fight for a great deal of the match. Naida Hernandez came just inches away from scoring on a free kick, while Lucy Mazariegos created problems frequently on the attack.
Hixson goalkeeper Arielle Hutchinson provided one of the highlight plays in the 55th minute.
With the speedy Mazariegos breaking free down the right sideline and running toward the right post, Hutchinson embraced the one-on-one challenge, and with quick reflexes she dove to her right in front of the middle of the goal to make a sensational save.
"You never know when your time comes when you have to step up for your team, and sometimes it comes as making a diving save," Hutchinson said. "We were all ready for this game. Our motivation is to beat Sequatchie County now."
The Lady Wildcats sealed a region tournament berth as Cline was in the right place to finish a deflected shot by Paola Perez, who had made a gutsy run at the keeper.
Just three minutes later, in the 74th minute, Perez sizzled a shot to the back left corner off a perfect lead pass by Lily Hansen.
"If we move the ball like we did tonight, we are going to be tough to stop no matter how solid you are," Harper said. "Our girls all stepped up. Megan Cline had brilliant crosses all night. These girls have a chip on their shoulder, and they are ready for Thursday."
Hixson lost 3-2 in the district title match to Sequatchie County last year and will travel to take on the 10-1 Lady Indians at 5:30 p.m. Thursday. Sequatchie beat Howard 7-0 on Monday with two goals apiece and a combined three assists by Jamie Rollins and Lindsey Weaver.
Contact Patrick MacCoon at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @PMacCoon.