By Chris Siers
If a defense can go an entire season and most of a postseason leading up to the state tournament allowing just seven goals, chances are that team is in for a remarkable season.
That’s just what the Cascade Lady Champions hung their hat on in the 2023 season.
Cascade relied on its senior leadership, a complete team effort and a stingy defense that gave up just seven goals before the state tournament.
“It was very exciting. Our girls were excited to be there. We’re just so proud of them that we made it that far. There’s around so much the state tournament and its a really awesome place. It was an awesome thing for them to experience in their high school career. They worked hard to get to that point. We suffered through injuries and worked hard to get back,” Lady Champion coach Wendy Williams said.
Cascade has qualified for the state sectional round several times in the past, but never was able to host, as Cascade always drew perennial powers Merrol Hyde, Signal Mountain and Chattanooga School of Arts and Sciences.
With the new districts redrawn this year, Cascade found itself in the opposite bracket and the Lady Champions seized their opportunity to make history.
“They redistricted anyone so we were on the opposite side of the bracket. When we won the region, which was the first time we ever won, we hosted sub-state which was a really big deal. Our girls being able to play on their field. I think it gave them confidence,” Williams said.
The glue that held the Lady Champions together en route to a 15-2 overall record this season was the team chemistry and the drive to push each other.
“I think its leadership, camaraderie. They really care about each other. Our upperclassmen were fantastic leaders this year. They held everyone to a high standard and held themselves to a high standard,” Williams said.
“There was no-quit and no giving up in them this year. This group constantly pushed each other to work harder and do the best they could do. I think that was key. There wasn’t one individual that made this happen. They did everything as a team.”
Cascade’s only regular season loss came in a 2-0 defeat at Huntland, who Cascade beat to claim the District 9-A championship in a 3-0 shutout and in a 1-0 victory to claim the Region 5-A title.
After claiming the first-ever region title, Cascade hosted Cheatham County in the Class 1A sectional and it was another shutout effort that punched the Lady Champs’ ticket to the Class 1A state tournament.
Senior Claire Perry anchored the Lady Champion defense in goal and recorded 79 saves this season.
Perry’s toughness set the standard for Cascade’s prowess as a defensive squad after suffering an injury in the postseason that required surgery between the district and region championships.
Cascade had three other defensive players named to the All-District team.
Dalyce Bird, Kelsey, Shatley and Ella Thompson all received special recognition for their defensive efforts this season.
“I think this senior class is a really special group. They have a strong sense of loyalty to their teammates and to this school. Their energy brought something special to this team,” Williams said.
With Cascade having knocked on the door of the state tournament for so long, finally breaking through and making history not only made for a memorable season, but also showed the returning players next year the path to the state tournament is attainable.
“I think it’s going to set the bar higher for them. Now they have this expectation of going back. They’ve seen it’s possible to make it there. They’re going to set their sights on being there again. Even for the middle schoolers and elementary schoolers who are watching, I think it’s a big deal,” Williams said.
Cascade finished with a 15-2 overall record this season.