CHATTANOOGA — You never know what’s going to happen.
Dobyns-Bennett senior midfielder Kate Jones opted for this universal phrase just minutes after the Lady Indians were eliminated from the TSSAA Class 3A girls soccer tournament at the semifinal stage for the second consecutive season.
It was fitting.
A day earlier, the Tribe survived extra time and a penalty shootout to defeat the top-ranked team in the state. On Thursday, D-B drew the other side of the coin.
Bailey Bussart’s goal 16 seconds from full time sent Houston into the championship match via a 1-0 win at Girls Preparatory School in Chattanooga. The result left D-B stunned.
“After yesterday, you never know what’s going to happen,” Jones said. “You don’t expect (penalty kicks) in the first round, but that’s what happened. Tonight, things just didn’t fall our way.”
The match appeared set for an extra 20 minutes — at least — before Houston (18-1-2) unearthed the unlikeliest of goals.
Houston’s Hollie Tackeberry was the first to go close during a wild sequence over the final minute of the match, flashing a free header wide of the far post from 10 yards. The Tribe managed to avoid any ensuing danger with a quick clearance, but could do little about what followed.
Houston fullback Chanel Thorpe picked up D-B’s clearance just inside midfield, took a touch and let fly. Her strike, beyond Tribe goalkeeper Lauren McInturff’s reach, caught the inside of the right goalpost and bounced back into the center of the area. Bussart was the first to react, lashing her shot through a crowded penalty box past an unsighted McInturff.
“We just kept working,” said Houston coach David Wolff, whose team, like D-B, was eliminated in last season’s round of four. “That’s the difference between this year and last year. It was the little things.
“You keep working and luck comes around.”
It didn’t look like anything was going to come around as the evening progressed. A physical, largely defensive encounter emerged early and continued throughout. Most of the first half featured disjointed play, perhaps a byproduct of two matches in two days.
The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock — aside from Bussart’s ultra-late theatrics — was on 71 minutes, when Bussart rattled the crossbar from 25 yards. D-B (18-4-1) managed just one shot on target all match, that a relatively tame effort from senior Katie Clark in the opening half.
“When you get to state, it gets so tough to play those back-to-back games,” D-B coach Shane Calvert said. “It’s one of those things where your legs are weary and you just have to fight. That’s what we did. We fought.
“We worked our butts off. You can’t measure the character of this team.”
Wolff praised the Lady Indians’ effort, particular that of their back four — or three as it was Thursday. Calvert opted for a three-woman defense, mainly in an attempt to increase his attacking options. For once, his gamble did not pay off.
“It was a hell of a defensive game,” Wolff said. “I thought Dobyns-Bennett’s defense was solid. Those girls at the back were amazing. Whoever No. 15 (Jones) is is an unbelievable player.”
Jones — who is weighing offers from the likes of Virginia Tech and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga — is among seven seniors who will depart this coming spring for pastures anew. None could be disheartened with this departure, not after the finest two-season run at D-B in 15 years.
“All season we’ve wondered if we could go further than last year,” Jones said. “But you can’t be upset with a Final Four finish. You can be disappointed, but you can’t be upset.”
Clark, a fellow senior, was in agreement: “We came down and we beat Brentwood, the team that knocked us out last year. That was one of our goals. We can’t complain. We did the best we could.”
Clark and Jones may have starred over the past four years, but they certainly weren’t alone. McInturff, Wednesday’s savior, the industrious Gina Strickland, the elegant Kara Brockwell, the tireless Julie Gilmer, the resilient Jackie Feldman, the stoic Sydney Collette — all have been mainstays alongside Clark and Jones under Calvert.
Calvert is leaving the program with immediate effect to take over the girls coaching position at Spartanburg (S.C.) High School. His final match in charge didn’t go to plan on two accounts; he was ejected midway through the second half after being shown a straight red card.
The defeat may have dampened the mood, but not his praise of both the program and the players with whom he has worked.
“I’ve been honored to be the coach at D-B,” said Calvert, who compiled a 54-12-7 record over three seasons in Kingsport. “I can’t say enough about the people and the support that we’ve received. The players, they’ve been so amazing to be around.
“This is a special place. It will always be in my heart.”
Houston, No. 2 in Class 3A, will face fourth-ranked Franklin for the state crown Saturday at 2:30 p.m.