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Photo courtesy: Cameron Shook

The Women of Asheville Fall to Tennessee SC in 0-1 Playoff Loss

By Mitch Stone, 07/08/24, 2:45AM HST


Photo courtesy: Cameron Shook

The women of Asheville’s remarkable playoff run came to end on Sunday night with a tight 0-1 loss to division-rival Tennessee SC. Tennessee’s only goal of the game came from an extraordinary free kick by Keaton Mitchell, who’s powerful free kick from outside of the box deflected off the crossbar and into the net. 

Despite the loss, the Blues had a remarkable season, qualifying for the playoffs for the very first time and recording an inspiring comeback victory in the first round. In her inaugural season, Coach Brooke Bingham put the city of Asheville on the map, establishing the women as a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. 

The first half of Sunday’s match was evenly contested, with both sides pressing and forcing giveaways throughout the pitch, preventing either team from producing any noteworthy chances. Although Asheville failed to register a shot on target, Maison Wells and Molly Dywer proved to be threats on the wings, sending in dangerous crosses towards the back post, but to no avail. 

Asheville’s first opportunity arrived in the 2nd minute when Wells received a pass towards the far sideline, completed a pullback, and played a long ball down the field to the running Addie Porter. Porter quickly received it and sent a low, bouncing cross across goal, but just out of the grasp of Dywer. 

In the 16th minute, Tennessee’s attack sprang into action as Ryanne Molenaar and Katelyn Toney linked up outside of the box, creating their first chance of the match. After receiving a back pass from Isabelle Kadzaban, Molenaar swiftly laid the ball off for Toney, who skillfully darted past Juliana Viera and struck a low shot just past the near post. 

As the Blues continued to press forward, Gillian Oyos generated another threatening cross towards the back post in the 19th minute following a poor clearance from Tennessee. The former Newcastle United defender Maison Wells collected the ball, taking a heavy touch forward and launching a towering cross towards the back post. Despite making a perfect run,17-year-old Cheyenne Painter failed to make contact with the ball, resulting in a goal kick for Tennessee. 

Just eight minutes later, Painter found herself in a perfect position yet again. The Barcelona Academy NPL striker was unmarked at the back post but failed to get on the end of a dangerous bouncing cross by Wells. The score would remain at 0-0 for the rest of the first half with not much to separate the two sides.  

Three minutes into the second half, the Blues finally recorded their first shot on target. Near the center circle, Lucie Bertrand delivered a pass to Wells, who speedily took the ball around Courtney Jones and dribbled down the field, firing a shot from outside of the box straight at goalkeeper Bailie Fiore. 

In the 52nd minute, a moment of chaos ensued following a beautiful free kick from Viera. The Uruguayan’s elevated cross slipped through Fiore’s gloves, forcing the Tennessee backline to scramble to clear the ball in front of the empty net. Asheville would once again come up empty-handed. 

The Blues nearly took the lead in the 64th minute off a phenomenal piece of skill from Porter. A giveaway off a throw-in deflected off Wells’ shin and miraculously fell to Asheville’s leading goal scorer, who, while perfectly positioned at the top of the box, niftily slipped through two defenders and curled a strike across goal, forcing a fingertip save. 

Alison Little had an excellent performance, producing arguably the save of the season in the 70th minute as Jones collected the ball at the top of the box and bent a thunderous strike towards the underside of the crossbar, prompting Little to make an incredible acrobatic save to tip it over. 

Five minutes later, Little faced another threatening opportunity, this time from a well-positioned free kick outside of the box. University of Tennessee midfielder Keaton Mitchell blasted a curling shot with her right foot over Little, off the crossbar, and into the net, putting Tennessee ahead for the first time. 

Tennessee almost doubled their lead in the 80th minute when Alec Baumgardt quickly received the ball outside of the 18-yard box and unleashed a rising strike that bounced off the crossbar and out. 

In the final moments, Viera launched one final ball into the box from far out, finding Porter, who’s strong header was saved once more by Fiore. It just wasn’t the Blues night, as they struggled to combine in the final third due to Tennessee’s compact formation. The match would end at 0-1, with Tennessee SC advancing to the USLW semi-finals against the NC Courage U23’s. 

“Coaching this team was an absolute joy. Each member played with immense passion and heart, making my job incredibly easy. I couldn't be prouder of everyone,” said Coach Brooke Bingham. “Our fantastic supporters, the South Slope Blues, stood by us all season, and we deeply appreciate them and the entire community so much.”

The men of Asheville will seek to avenge the women’s loss on July 13th, in which they host Tennessee SC at 7:30pm at Greenwood Field. The Blues can break their regular season USL2 points record with a victory.