That was just the game McMinn County needed heading into postseason play.
The Lady Cherokees scored four unanswered goals and finished their regular season with a 4-1 win over Knoxville Catholic on Thursday at the McMinn County Soccer Complex.
With the senior night victory, McMinn (7-4-1) bounced back from a four-goal loss from Tuesday at Farragut. The Lady Irish (3-10-1) were coming off wins over Greeneville and Knoxville Webb and had played that same Farragut team to a tie.
“This is a huge morale booster for our team, and just another thing that gives us more unity going into the district tournament,” said McMinn head coach Arielle Halsall. “They (Catholic) were a great team, and I think this was the best game that our team has played so far this season.”
Lexi Lawson scored two goals for the Lady Tribe, and Kylee Winder and Mackenzie Howard one each. McMinn was in control of possession and planted on Catholic’s side of the field more often than not, with the Lady Cherokees amassing a 36-9 overall shot advantage (16-6 on goal) and building an 8-3 margin on corner kicks.
“(We were) definitely connecting off one another, finding those passes,” Halsall said. “The final pass is what we’ve really been working on, is that last connecting pass up top, and tonight we were finding countless opportunities on goal finding our connections together.”
However, it was the Lady Irish striking the first blow in the 18th minute, when a ball skipped past a McMinn defender and into the possession of McKenzie Burkhalter, who broke away toward a one-on-one with the Lady Cherokees’ goalkeeper and slotted the ball past her for a 1-0 lead.
But McMinn found its first of four answers four minutes later. Kylee Hockman crossed the ball from the right wing toward the feet of Winder near the back post, and the freshman finished for the equalizer.
Lawson got on the board after collecting a pass, dribbling to the top of the box and firing into the net, putting the Lady Tribe ahead 2-1 in the 33rd minute, an advantage it took into halftime.
Howard struck nine minutes into the second half, collecting a throw-in and launching an arc over the keeper from outside the 18-yard box at the left wing. Then with 21 minutes left in the game, Lawson finished her brace by keeping control of the ball through multiple collisions with Lady Irish defenders, working her way within about 10 yards of the goal and booting it past the goalie.
“We worked a lot on passing sequences and I saw that in our game tonight,” Halsall said. “The movement off the ball was beautiful. The connections up top, the connections in the back line. Front to back, our team was very together in our goal of playing tonight for our seniors.”
Seniors honored before the start of the game were Hockman, Kyndal Rollo, Kayleigh Ridley, Allie Sewell, Lainey Buchanan and Johana Sevilla.
With their regular season finished, the Lady Cherokees are back in action in the District 5-AAA tournament, in which they will be the No. 2 seed. The tournament schedule had not been finalized as of print deadline for The Daily Post-Athenian on Thursday night.