CHATTANOOGA — Battle Ground Academy’s quest for a three-peat finished one win short Friday evening at CHI Memorial Stadium as the Wildcats fell 1-0 to the University School of Jackson in the Division II-A state championship game.

USJ avenged its 2020 state final loss to BGA, who won 1-0 over the Bruins at Richard Siegel Complex.

The 2021 state tournament berth was BGA’s 17th in program history and fourth in a row. What this group of seniors leaves behind goes well beyond the pitch, but head coach Jan Morrissey said fans should not be quick to overlook just how much the Class of 2021 has accomplished on the field in their four years.

“It is quite the burden to carry playing soccer here,” Morrissey said. “We have a solid program, but the seniors have raised that bar a little more with each passing season and leave behind big shoes to fill. Our alumni are very proud of all the girls but extremely proud of this senior class. They certainly put their stamp on this program.”

With their loss, BGA fell to 14-12 overall in state tournament games, with four runners-up finishes and five state titles.

“To have those expectations set before the season even begins is a heavy burden to carry,” Morrissey said. “I thought the girls did a great job of coming together late in the season after battling their share of adversity. For them to put themselves in a final with a spectacular USJ team is something to be proud of.”

One of those seniors, forward Alyssa White, said USJ earned the right to call themselves champions after Friday's match.

“They had a chip on their shoulder, I think especially considering the last two years,” she said. “It’s hard when you have a target on your back. They played a good game and beat us to the ball. You must hand it to them — they played well.”

USJ came out firing on all cylinders, controlling a healthy 70 percent of the first-half possession.

Their persistence paid off with eight minutes left until the halftime buzzer when Morgan English buried a shot in the back of the net off a corner kick.

That 1-0 advantage held the rest of the way.

“At the break, we went back to doing the simple, fundamental things that got us here,” Morrissey said. “The girls did a great job of recognizing what adjustments needed to be made.”

Trailing 0-1 to start the second half, BGA owned the second 40 minutes with shots, possession, set pieces and corner kicks. The Wildcats outshot USJ 12-2 over the final 40 minutes.

Despite multiple solid chances at the net, BGA never found an equalizer.

“We had a lot of chances we just couldn’t finish,” White said. “It’s a sad loss because we wanted the third championship. Sadly, it didn’t work out for us.”

The loss will undoubtedly sting for Morrissey and her returning players, but just getting to the DII-A finals was an achievement considering how BGA battled through injuries all season.

“USJ put so much pressure on us to start the match it threw us off our game,” Morrissey said. “It is a disappointing end, yes, but when you look back on what all they have accomplished and overcame, you will say it was a good performance.”

Zach Womble oversees sports coverage in Sumner County for the Gallatin News, Hendersonville Standard and Portland Sun. Womble has won several TPA awards, highlighted by two first-place awards in 2020 for best sports writing and best special section.

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