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Lady Bulldogs
Bearden High School

Eric Turner will soon open his 13th season as Bearden High School’s girls soccer coach. His Bulldogs, who are always a Class AAA State Title contender, must answer some questions as the 2011 campaign unfolds.

Turner grudgingly admits that his squad is in a rebuilding mode but he said that’s no excuse for the Lady Dawgs not to live up to the normally lofty expectations.

“If we’ve ever had a rebuilding season in a true sense, this is it but that doesn’t mean that our goals are going to change,” Turner said. “Our expectations are the same as always.

“Our expectations are to get to the state tournament and then to win the State Championship.”

Bearden returns just three starters from last year’s squad that won both the District 4-AAA regular season and tournament championships as well as a Region 2-AAA Tournament Championship. The Bulldogs reached the State Tournament in 2010 but their stay was short. Bearden lost in the quarterfinals to Ravenwood.

Senior forward Kristi Granger and midfielder Rebecca Stover are back for their final high school seasons —- both were all-state performers in 2010. Senior defender Monica Kubick, who also started at defender last season, is also back.

Other key returners include: Cassidy Smith (junior, forward); Jessica Logan (a senior midfielder who was injured last year); Gabrielle Gianeselli (senior, forward/midfielder); Ellen Dickinson (junior, midfielder/forward); Rachel Crowley (senior, midfielder) and Kelly Riemer (junior, midfielder/forward).

The Bulldogs also have a talented crop of newcomers including junior forward Brennan Day, who transferred from Science Hill. She’s wasted little time finding a home at Bearden.

“I’ve been really impressed with the camaraderie here,” said Day, who is no stranger to stiff soccer competition. “The girls have all been great on and off the field.

“I just want to add something to this team. This is a very competitive district. It’s a lot more competitive than what you have in Johnson City.

Other top newcomers include defenders Mallory Denning (sophomore) and senior Ana Aponte. Sophomore Katie Cottrell joins the Bulldogs this season and is slated to be the starting goalkeeper.

If the Bulldogs are going to enjoy their usual success, the youngsters are going to have to make a swift impact.

“We’re going to have to grow up in a hurry and there’s no doubt about that,” Turner said. “Right now, we really don’t have any strengths except for the fact that our attitude has been good and our work has been good.

“These kids know about the tradition of Bearden High School soccer and they know about the legacy of Bearden High School soccer but this group is going to have to learn that nobody’s going to feel sorry for us.”

Granger said she knows that everybody is going to be gunning for the Bulldogs.

“Our goal is to get to state and win it but we know that we’ll definitely have a target on our backs,” Granger said. “You have to play hard and give it all you’ve got.

“Coach Turner really pushes us.”

If the Lady Dawgs are to reach their lofty aspirations, they’re going to have to make a steep climb.

“Right now, we’re probably the fourth best team in our district and by the end of the season we want to be the top team in our district,” Turner said. “We may take some lumps in the middle of the season and that’s fine.

“We want to be ready toward the end of the season.”

Bearden will again play one of the toughest schedules in Knox County. The Lady Dawgs’ district is the toughest Class AAA conference in the state and while Bearden will struggle to find their identity early, Catholic (which also made last year’s state tournament), Farragut, West, Maryville and Lenoir City have all improved.

“There’s no easy game in our district,” Turner said. “I know Farragut, Catholic and West all got a lot of players back.”

Bearden opens its 2011 campaign with a road district match against Blount County’s Rebels on Aug. 23. The Bulldogs host Kingsport Dobyns-Bennett on Aug. 25 and entertain Siegel on Aug. 27.


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