Bruisers Soccer Wins TSSAA Division II-AA Title

GPS soccer brings home second state title in five years.
After dominating Brentwood Academy 4-1 Thursday, October 25, in the TSSAA Division II-AA semifinals—thanks to goals by Kylie Eiselstein ’19, Kennedy Ball ’23, and Lane Lawrence ’19 and saves by Kaedra Thorstensen ’21—the Bruisers headed to the state finals the next day to face the Lady Irish of Father Ryan, who had defeated Baylor 5-0 the night before.

A cold, wet, and rainy day made for a muddy field but could not dampen the Bruisers’ spirits as they went on to earn what they worked toward all season—a state title.

An early goal by Father Ryan set the score at 1-0 for most of the first half, but with 81 seconds left on the clock, Ashley Grant ’21 scored off an assist from Sydney Morris ’21 to tie the game just before halftime. “The tying goal before the half was incredibly important to keep us from starting the second half behind,” says Head Varsity Coach Patrick Winecoff. “That’s a difficult position to be in and it’s tougher the deeper into the half you go.”

Seemingly reinvigorated after the break, the Bruisers scored first as Morris found the back of the net in the 53rd minute of play with an assist by Ball. “Sydney’s goal put us back in the driver’s seat and boosted our play,” Coach Winecoff says. “But, I knew Father Ryan would have more chances to score; they are a talented team and aggressive.”

At 6:24 left to play, the Irish found one of those chances and scored, tying the game again, 2-2. “From Sydney’s goal to Father Ryan’s goal, we had a lot of good chances to score and we should have had a goal or two,” Coach Winecoff says. “So, even when Father Ryan tied it up, I was confident we would score again because we were playing really well offensively.”

He was correct. Fewer than two minutes later, with 4:13 remaining in the game, Lawrence scored the third goal and game-winner for the Bruisers when her free kick ricocheted off a Father Ryan defender, right by the goalkeeper, and into the net.

As the official time expired, the team and coaches rushed the field to celebrate with hugs, smiles, and happy tears.

Afterward, Coach Winecoff was awarded the TSSAA Division II-AA Coach’s Award for girls soccer and the team trophy was then presented to the 2018 state champions, our GPS Bruisers.

On Monday, the soccer team and coaches were celebrated with a standing ovation during Chapel. Before presenting the trophy to Head of School Dr. Autumn Graves and Athletic Director Jay Watts, Winecoff praised his coaching team—assistants Ashley Linehart and Andy Sarjant, and goalie coach David Barrueta—for keeping the players well-trained and focused and for their insight and experience.

Winecoff also gave special recognition to the newly refined GPS Strength and Conditioning program, led by Coaches Matt Green and Beverly Blackwell. “Throughout the year, our recovery sessions helped us get ready for our next training sessions or matches,” Winecoff says. “Consequently, injuries were very minimal this season.”

The Bruisers finished the 2018 season with a 15-1-3 record overall and set program records for most goals scored, 83 to be exact, and fewest goals allowed, only 10, in the regular season. “Statistically we had the best season offensively and defensively in our program’s history,” Coach Winecoff says. “For our five seniors, who have worked so hard the past four years, a state championship is the perfect finish to their high school soccer careers.”

Those five seniors—Myra Brock, Anna Croxall, Kylie Eiselstein, Lane Lawrence, and Megan Pfaffle—have been tremendous leaders for the relatively young Bruisers team. Coach Winecoff applauds not only their individual talent but also their extreme work ethic and spirit. “They modeled and set expectations for their younger teammates,” he says.

Also on Monday, Brock, Eiselstein, and Lawrence along with junior Meg Priest and sophomores Grant, Morris, and Thorstenson were named to the All-Region team. The announcement of the All-State team is expected in the next few weeks.

More photos from the state championship game and presentation in Chapel are on our SmugMug account here