MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — For 365 days, Houston’s girls soccer team has kept Clarksville High in its thoughts.
It’s either been at the forefront of their minds or somewhere lurking in the back. Regardless, the Lady Mustangs never forgot what it felt like when the final whistle of the 2014 season rang out with Clarksville High celebrating a state championship victory.
Houston wanted nothing more than to avenge that loss.
Saturday afternoon at Richard Siegel Park, Houston made sure those thoughts were put to good use as its suffocating defense stifled Clarksville en route to a Class 3A state championship clinching 3-0 victory.
“We would have played anybody in this championship, and there were some deserving teams, some great ones. But we really only wanted Clarksville High.” Houston coach David Wolff said. “That’s all we’ve thought about all year. Our goal was to get back here and play them.”
It’s the seventh state title for Houston of Germantown and the first since 2013. The Mustangs finish the season a perfect 22-0 while Clarksville High ends its season as the state runner-up with a 23-5 record.
“I’ve watched Clarksville and coach (Jeff) Jordan since they first made state a few years back, and I could tell then that his teams were going to be special. But I have to say we benefited from playing three straight days and the fact that Clarksville played in overtime (in Friday’s semifinal). We just have the depth, and that showed.”
Clarksville has enjoyed a surge in girls soccer since Jordan’s arrival four years ago. This was the third-straight state appearance for the Lady Wildcats, but depth was an issue this season since four of his key players on last year’s state title team are playing college soccer.
“We beat some of the best teams in the state to get back here,” Jordan said. “And I felt we represented the midstate well. We’re the only midstate team here, and our girls had the heart. But we just didn’t have the legs in the end. We had girls struggling to get to the ball, and we were sliding and falling all over the place. That’s when you know you have the heart, but you don’t have the legs.”
Houston dominated long stretches of the game. It outshot Clarksville 16-1 and had 16 corner kicks, eight in the first half. Defensively, the Mustangs were impressive, killing every attacking run from Clarksville.
Clarksville’s scoring trio of Gybson Roth, Salera Jordan and Lexie Hayes looked for room to maneuver but found a Houston defender’s leg instead. Roth had Clarksville’s best opportunity to score in the first half after a perfect pass from Jordan.
Houston’s goalie Kaylie Hammer came out to meet Jordan, leaving an empty net for Roth. Roth fired her foot forward and slipped as she made contact. The ball hit the near post with a thud.
“Houston is a great team, but their road to this game was a bit easier,” Jordan said. “They have great players, and they were fresh. We weren’t. Had we had the legs, maybe it’s a different story.”
Houston responded late in the first half with freshman Jenna Kemp who found the far back post wide open as Clarksville goalie Melia Correa had the near post covered. Kemp’s shot slid wide to Correa’s right and into the left corner of the net for a 1-0 lead with less than nine minutes left in the half.
Paola Ellis gave Houston a 2-0 lead with 35:08 left in the second half, drilling a shot into the far right upper corner of the net for a 2-0 lead.
“It hasn’t hit us yet,” Ellis said. “We’ve worked so hard this season to get back to this point and play Clarksville. We’re just really excited about another state title and especially after how last year ended. We’ve worked all year for this moment.”
Jillian Hildreth added an insurance goal with 28:25 left in the game and a 3-0 advantage.
“I felt if we could get it to 2-0, we could win it,” Wolff said. “I figured Clarksville wasn’t going to score three times. We’ve given up four goals all year, so I knew our defense could hold a 2-0 lead. But I’m honored to be on the same field with Clarksville and coach Jordan. What he has done, what they have done is created a rivalry between these two schools.”
Reach Prep writer George Robinson at 931-245-0747 and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.