Four county teams look to sharpen skills at soccer tournament
The teams taking the field this weekend at the Sevier County soccer complex may not resemble their final products in October.
Figuring out what works best is what the Bearette Soccer Invitational is all about.
“One of the things that always comes out of this tournament, we usually realize we’re not as in shape as we think we are,” said Gatlinburg-Pittman coach Whit Helton. “A lot of times preseason stuff is an eye-opener. It really lets us as coaches create a road map as to how were going to attack the rest of the season.”
Eight teams will converge on Sevierville beginning today for the annual tournament. That includes all four public high school teams in Sevier County. The event is the season opener for Seymour and Pigeon Forge while Sevier County (0-1) and the Highlanders (1-0) enter the tournament following games on Tuesday. Each teamw ill play three games over three days with the tournament winner decided by a points system.
Bearettes coach Tim Bohanan, in his third year running the tournament traditionally held the first weekend of the season, said the event not only helps Sevier County fund its season but it provides some early tests that show if the Bearettes are grasping concepts they’ve been practicing but haven’t had much time to perfect in game situations.
“We’re still trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together,” Bohanan said. “The first few games will be a real nice opportunity for us. Hopefully we’re better at the end of the year than we will be these first few games.”
Bohanan said his team has a solid core returning despite losing a strong group of seniors from last year’s team. That includes Emily Lavoie, who has moved to goalkeeper and played well both in scrimmages and the season-opening loss at Halls. Sevier County will be relying heavily on Savannah Stair as both a playmaker and a goalscorer while Kezley Anderson, Melody Silva, Brenda Medellin and Megan Price will also be big contributers. Kara Keys is starting the season with a broken wrist.
Sevier County’s first opponent in the tournament will be county rival Pigeon Forge (5 p.m.). Coach Bill Moseley’s Tigers will rely on a core of seniors this year including veterans Carson Montgomery and Alisha Norris. Moseley said his seniors are very competitive this season and have been strong leaders on a team that includes six freshmen. This weekend will provide the opportunity to test his players, both old and new.
“You’re able to sub a lot of people, see how they do, maybe move them around a little bit,” he said. “It helps you fine tune a little bit for the season. You get a lot of different looks.”
Helton’s Highlanders are trying out some new looks, shifting veterans into positions they’ve never played before. It seemed to work out well in a 6-0 win over Union County on Tuesday. Former defenders Madison Thomas and Makenzie Yaksic combined for five goals in that game. The two have moved to attacking roles up front and in the midfield, respectively.
“They’re are different roles but roles they’re very comfortable with,” Helton said. “They’ve handled it just fine. Both are very skilled soccer players.”
Rival Seymour boasts some skill of its own in a junior class that has plenty of experience and spent the offseason focusing on club play. Shelby Rooney is back, too, after a one-year absence and coach Ron Blaydes expects the senior to dominate in midfield.
"We reallly missed her last year," Blaydes said. "She's a dominant force in the middle and a great ball controller."
Rooney is one of four seniors, including three starters, that complement a collection of eight juniors, most with starting experience. That includes goalkeeper Lily Marine, who was fantastic a year ago and has only gotten better.
"As a team, we’re playing real well," Blaydes said. "There’s really no individuals out there. They’re all going to make a difference because of their ability to work together. ... We’ve never had this big of a team that’s played club before. I’m looking forward to (the season)."