Lady Cherokees aiming for season repeat

Greenback School senior Riley Poe dribbles down the field Thursday during practice.

With the 2020 fall season set to start on time, the Greenback School Lady Cherokees soccer team is going all out in practice with gold on their minds.

Greenback head coach Rob Fox said the team is hungry to get back to work.

“We’ve been hitting practice four days a week for the most part, but we’ve been limiting our practices to what we were allowed to do,” he said. “It was primarily cardiovascular, working out — we were not doing soccer work other than passing the ball. As of the announcement, we’ve turned the page and now we’re doing what I consider a preseason true soccer practice. We’re scrimmaging, we’re working game-time situations. As much contact as soccer is, we’re back into the swing of what I would call ordinary practice.”

The Lady Cherokees are now able to scrimmage to simulate game-like situations.

“Before it was just like volleys and stuff, and we have a lot of new girls, so that’s usually how we start is just getting our touches in,” Julianne Fox, Greenback senior, said. “The last two or three days have been good because we’ve been able to actually scrimmage, so we’re finally getting our positioning and how we’re going to do our foundations.”

The team has responded well and quickly transitioned into “soccer mode.”

“They’re all over it and want every part of that,” Rob said. “You can only practice so many musical scales before you want to play a song, and we’re way beyond the point we want to play some music. That’s where we are.”

The Lady Cherokees are coming off a successful 13-5-1 season that yielded the program’s first District 4-1A championship in a decade.

Greenback will boast the most experienced roster this season in District 4-1A, including the 2019 All-County Player of the Year Julianne Fox.

“We definitely want to try to make it as far we did last year and even go to regions and maybe the state tournament if we can,” Julianne said. “I know our first game of the season is against Cumberland Gap, who we got knocked out by last year, so we’re looking at them for sure. Of course, the district championship with Polk County.”

Other key players include seniors Jenna McConnell, Lily Morton, Betsy Tiller and Riley Poe.

Rob said the team is still searching for a solid goalkeeper following the graduation of All-County selection Angelita Astudillo.

“There’s a lot of skill on the field right now for Greenback, a lot of senior leadership,” Rob said. “We’ve got four returning seniors that have played for at least the last three seasons, and then we’ve got a fifth senior who is coming back to the team. Overall from the senior class perspective for Greenback, that’s pretty strong for us.”

Juniors Kierra Bishop, Mikah Morris and Lynsi Sauder, as well as several underclassmen, will play big roles in the Lady Cherokees’ pursuit of a second straight district championship.

“I’m seeing a lot of improvement out of Lynsi Sauder — she’s returning and a junior now — and her strength has really jumped up,” Rob said. “Mikah Morris is so athletic, so she’s predictable from the standpoint that she’s good and everybody knows she’s going to be good. Kierra Bishop is also another really good athlete, and she’s making a lot of headway.”

Rob believes the team has the potential to advance to regionals and possibly secure a state tournament berth.

“Our expectations are to try to get back to where we were last year because last year we found a way to win the district, which is the first time we have in so many years,” he said. “We’d love to repeat and do it again. We’ve got some questions to answer before we begin, but that’s our ambition. We as a team would like to not only win the district, but we would like to get to the regional championship this year.”

The Lady Cherokees will start the regular season at 7 p.m. Aug. 18 at home against the Cumberland Gap High School Lady Panthers.