MURFREESBORO — Tom Gerlach wore his checkered yellow and purple pants hoping it could spark some good luck for his Christ Presbyterian Academy soccer team that has been dogged by injuries this season.
Despite those setbacks, his Lady Lions found themselves 80 minutes from a Class A/AA state championship Saturday afternoon. But in order to claim that prize, CPA would have to do it without four key players, three of which were starters.
Playing short-handed and facing defending state champion Greeneville, Christ Presbyterian fell 1-0 despite going 74 minutes to a scoreless standstill.
But Greeneville’s Jessica Sallah ended the tie with a driving shot across her body that traveled 30 yards into the upper net for the Lady Greene Devils’ second straight state championship.
“I knew CPA’s goalie (Kayla Wegner) liked to go low to stop shots so I tried to get the ball high,” Sallah said. “Watching it go in just felt like a relief. It was like a huge weight was lifted off our shoulders because it was such a difficult game.”
Greeneville finished the season 26-1.
It was a more difficult ending for CPA (20-5-2). The Lady Lions played without starters Vayle McKay, Mollyanne Thorne and Anna Avinger.
“I woke up yesterday with a multiple text messages about ‘Hey coach, I’m at home sick’,” Gerlach said. “Four girls had the stomach flu. With our injuries we played about 12 girls this entire state tournament. That’s tough, but give Greeneville credit because that’s a great team over there.”
Gerlach was proud of how quickly the program has turned. Just two years ago, CPA was under .500 with a 5-6-3 record. Last year, the program improved to 16-3-1 with a state tournament appearance. Until the runner-up finish, CPA was riding a 14-game win streak, having given up only two goals during that span.