As they do after every match, the Chattanooga Football Club women's soccer players gathered in a circle Thursday night, with coach Drew Courtney offering some final thoughts.
This time there were a couple of tears and a lot of disappointment.
Yet there also was reason for optimism after their 3-1 home loss to the Atlanta Silverbacks, effectively ending Chattanooga FC's season. The hosts had moments in which they outplayed their first-place opponents, largely in the second half after spotting the Silverbacks two goals in the first half.
Their intensified attacking led to the CFC goal in the 63rd minute by Carlie Banks, assisted by Summer Lanter. The Lee University junior and former Soddy-Daisy standout made a run down the right side and chipped the ball across to the former LSU Tiger, who put the shot away to trim Atlanta's lead to a goal.
"We had a better work ethic," Lanter said of the improved play. "I think in the second half the girls put a lot of heart into it and we knew what we needed to do. We worked really hard to try to get that; unfortunately it didn't happen, but we went out as a team and that's all we can ask for."
CFC (3-6) was able to create a couple of other opportunities, but with less than 10 minutes to play Banks was called for a foul in the box, and Tess Patton put the penalty kick away for the insurance goal.
Chattanooga played the second half without starting goalkeeper Jessica Fraiture, who was injured in a collision late in the first half. She was replaced by Abby Sadler, who had three saves in her time.
Atlanta (7-0), the top seed in the Southeast Conference, had first-half goals from Zaneta Wyne and Jocelyn Baker, with assists from former CFC defender Katerina Gohkman and Brittney Reed, who played for CFC in 2014.
"Looking back at the season, we try to take a big-picture look at it," Courtney said. "We felt we made some steps in the right direction. In terms of the match, I felt our first half was poor on our part, and at halftime we really challenged the girls to compete, and I thought we did a really good job of that in the second half.
"I thought we won the second half. The PK call wasn't in our favor, but I felt we were the better team in the second half. We didn't win the match, but it's good to build on for us at the end of the season."
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.