MURFREESBORO ‑ Bearden soccer coach Ryan Radcliffe took a few steps back after walking onto the field at the end of his team’s 1-0 loss to Brentwood in the TSSAA Class AAA state soccer tournament quarterfinals Tuesday. Radcliffe was going to console a distraught team that suffered its only loss and ended its season at 18-1-3.
But Radcliffe needed a minute to compose himself first.
He just watched what most would consider to be a state championship-caliber game involving Brentwood, ranked No. 2 nationally in the United Soccer Coaches high school poll, and Bearden, ranked No. 10. The two teams met in last year’s AAA final but found themselves matched up in Tuesday’s quarterfinal.
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“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen, in a state tournament, two teams (nationally) ranked … playing in a quarterfinal match at 2 o’clock in the afternoon,” Radcliffe said. “I don’t know how that came about. I don’t know if there’s something that can be fixed from that.”
The TSSAA holds a blind draw to determine the state soccer tournament bracket. If two teams from the same region advance to state, the high school organization will place those teams on opposite sides of the bracket. Bearden and Brentwood were shocked to see the matchup after the draw pitted the only two unbeaten teams in the eight-team tournament field.
“We were thinking ‘My God’, the same, I’m sure, Bearden was thinking when they saw they drew us,” Brentwood coach Mike Purcell said. “This is a state final matchup and worthy of one, I would think, but there’s other teams out there that want to play for a state title too.”
The Bruins’ Cline Simmons slotted a perfect pass to Cooper Bailey, who slipped the ball through a sliding Bearden defender and past the Bulldogs goalie for the game’s only goal with 20:32 left in the first half. Brentwood’s defense held in the second half despite eight shots on goal by Bearden.
Brentwood (23-0) will face Bartlett (14-3-3) at 4 pm in Wednesday’s semifinal, but the Bruins will do it without Bailey, the team’s leading scorer. Bailey has 32 goals and 12 assists this season but was given a red card with less than three minutes remaining. He’ll miss both the semifinal and state championship Friday.
Purcell was relieved his team advanced against “the best team we’ve played all year” and is guarding against his team having an emotional letdown against Bartlett
“We were ready to play Bearden,” he said. “But how do you go from a state championship-type game to the semifinal (Wednesday)? There’s got to be a little bit of a letdown. So we’ve got to play (Bartlett) like its the state final.”
Meanwhile, Bearden was left with a lot of what-if’s having played three games in four days last week.
“We tried to look at the positives of it,” Radcliffe said. “There’s no reason to look at the negatives of it. You can’t change it, and nobody’s going to listen to you if you ask to change it.”
Reach sports writer George Robinson at ge[email protected] and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: TSSAA soccer: Brentwood, Bearden question state tournament blind draw