HENDERSONVILLE — The Watertown High School girls soccer team spent more time on the bus than they did the pitch Tuesday night as the host Merrol Hyde Lady Hawks blanked the Wilson County product 10-0 in the Region 4-A semifinal round.
The two teams ended the semifinal match after 40 minutes of play due to TSSAA’s mercy rule, which states once a team is ahead by nine goals in the second half, play must be stopped, but play must continue at least through halftime (40 minutes).
The 60-minute commute from Watertown to Merrol Hyde will be a long bus ride back home, but Watertown (7-6-1) head coach Jeff Fish says there is so much to be proud of if you are a Purple Tiger.
“This is the most successful season in girls soccer and the first time we’ve made it to the region semifinal round,” Fish said. “This is all due to our seniors sticking with it, because it hasn’t been the easiest three years with me. We are taking steps in the right direction as a program.”
The win for Merrol Hyde improves the Lady Hawks to 14-1-1 on the season, with 95 goals scored and only 10 goals surrendered.
As Merrol Hyde heads into their Thursday Region 4 Championship at Smith County, head coach Jason Bentley says it’s all about playing their brand of soccer.
“The main thing is we need to continue to play our brand of soccer, which is using the width and depth of the pitch to spread teams out and our possession,” he said. “We are getting healthy at the right time, the healthiest we have been all season, so those are the things we are focused on right now.”
Tuesday night’s match marked the fourth game in a row Merrol Hyde kept a blank sheet and the seventh time in the last 10 games.
Bentley says despite the lack of work for his midfield, defense, and keeper, he is confident.
“The reason you see these scores is our defense is solid,” he said. “They help generate our offense and are a big part of what we are doing, so no, I’m not concerned at all.”
Merrol Hyde has established themselves as a state tournament or bust program, and despite that pressure, Bentley says this year’s team is loose, heading into the most critical part of the season.
“This year’s mindset is very similar to team’s in the past,” Bentley said. “Our goal is to get to state, that is where the bar is, but they understand that mindset and the work they have to put in. That mentality is handed down year after year; the foundation and culture are set, now it’s about putting in the work, effort, and commitment each year.”
Added Bentley on his team’s experience in big games:
“I think being in state for these last several years just builds more and more confidence for these girls,” he said. “You take it one game, one week at a time, and the progress takes care of itself. They know what they are doing.”
Bentley credits great team success each season to the senior leaders.
“Julia Lewis, Carlee Zettergren, Karina Steiner are all phenomenal players in their own right, but they have provided great leadership and picked up from the seniors that left last year. They lead this team in an excellent way. The girls do many things together outside of soccer, which creates this atmosphere of wanting to play for each other.”
The Lady Hawks have played in every state tournament since 2017, with two runner-up finishes to show for it.
“Keep pounding the rock, and eventually, it will break,” Bentley said. “We’ve been close twice, and I think this team can do it, but right now, we are focused on taking it one match at a time, and hopefully, it will eventually happen for us.”
Goals versus Watertown: Sydney Arezza (4), Mary Mcillwain (2), Bella Henderson (1), Lindy Shoulders (1), Sofia Khouri (1), Watertown own goal on Eliza Doyle’s shot.