Highlanders' season ends in loss to CAK
There was early evidence Tuesday was going to be a rough night for Gatlinburg-Pittman.
It was less than eight minutes into the elimination game when Christian Academy of Knoxville’s Addy Cronan found the back of the net with a bending shot from around the edge of the box.
“I saw it fly over my head,” said G-P goalkeeper Sydney Perry. “I tipped it with my middle finger. After that, I just remember the team trying to get back in it from there on out.”
The Highlanders never could quite recover in the Region 2-A/AA semifinal, falling 5-1 to the Warriors. Cronan added two late goals to finish with a hat trick while fellow sophomore Emily Threatt had a goal off a Cronan assist. Carter Steedley also scored. G-P had a second-half penalty kick tally from Alyssa Hale.
CAK moves into the region final on Thursday.
“(CAK) makes very few mistakes,” said Highlanders coach Whit Helton. “Their passing’s accurate. They win a lot of 50-50 balls. The girls fought hard but we got banged up, a couple key players out with injuries. ... At the end of the day, I’m proud of our season and proud of where we are. Being the only public school in the region tournament says a lot.”
G-P had trouble contending with both Cronan and Threatt. The duo connected up top all night long, combining speed and clever skill. Cronan was tough to keep off the ball and Threatt could work her way through the defense with a nifty touch.
“They’re big-time players,” said Warriors coach Ried Estus. “(Threatt), she’s a wing midfielder that we decided to start the year we needed another goalscorer. ... There’s a big space between the midfield and the forward and they’re used to playing together so they’re looking to play combination play with each other. We depend heavy on them.”
Cronan scored twice in the final seven minutes, getting behind the defense like a tight end running straight down the field. Helton said his team was worn down by CAK’s 23-shot onslaught.
Hale’s PK goal nine minutes into the half seemed to give the hosts some life, but it was hard to generate chances with minesweepers like the Warriors’ Melissa Garvey clearing balls out of the box.
“I think CAK’s biggest strength is their defense,” Helton said. “I said it last year, (Garvey’s) got to be one of the best defenders in the state. She’s so quick. She doesn’t give any space.”
That was bad news for the Highlanders. When Cronan punched in those two late goals, there wasn’t much more G-P could do.
“We held them off as much as we could,” Perry, who had 18 saves, said. “I’m proud of the defense and I’m proud of the team.”