Soccer

Beech soccer running District 9-AAA gauntlet

Most high school soccer teams play more district matches on the back end of their schedule, but Beech has a two-week stretch where its postseason path will mostly be carved out.

The Lady Buccaneers are in the midst of a 13-day period in which they will face five of the seven District 9-AAA opponents on their schedule.

Having split the first two of those matches – a 4-2 loss at Mt. Juliet on Monday and a 6-2 victory over visiting Wilson Central on Thursday evening – Beech is preparing for the second week of that stretch against Station Camp, Gallatin and Hendersonville.

“It’s the biggest week of our season,” Beech head coach Jeremy Cooke said. “You’ve got three major games against three very, very tough opponents. If we can get some victories out of those, we’ll be in good shape.”

Beech senior Kendall Burroughs dribbles past the Lady Buccaneers' bench during second-half action of Thursday's match against Wilson Central.

Beech senior Kendall Burroughs dribbles past the Lady Buccaneers’ bench during second-half action of Thursday’s match against Wilson Central.

The Lady Buccaneers are also getting back into rhythm after playing just once in a 17-day stretch between a match at Rossview in late August and their district opener on Monday. A match against Pope John Paul II was canceled during that span, causing the scheduling gap.

“We worked on more possession, rather than just trying to kick the ball everywhere we’re going,” junior Natalie Lankster said. “That really helped us in (Thursday’s match), because if we hadn’t been able to possess it, we wouldn’t have been able to get the scoring opportunities that we had.”

It’s not something Cooke wanted in his first year as the girls’ head coach, but after coaching the boys’ program last spring, he’s been trying to keep his players sharp.

Beech junior Natalie Lankster takes a shot during second-half action against Wilson Central on Thursday.

Beech junior Natalie Lankster takes a shot during second-half action against Wilson Central on Thursday.

“We’ve had a couple of good practices,” Cooke said. “We’ve talked about keeping their spirits up and making sure we’re staying motivated to finish the district schedule right. I think they’re in the right frame of mind right now.”

Thursday’s victory broke a five-match losing streak in which the Lady Buccaneers were outscored by a 22-3 margin. That stretch came after Beech won the Mount Buckley Division at the Smoky Mountain Cup in Gatlinburg in August.

“Our last (few) games have been really hard on us,” Lankster said. “We were getting down on ourselves from scoring opportunities that we didn’t succeed on, so when we came back and actually finished, it motivated us a ton.”

Reach Chris Brooks at cbrooks@tennessean.com or at 615-575-7118. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @CB_SumnerSports, and on Snapchat @cbrooksgne.

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