TOUGH NIGHT

Kanu, Pen­sacola end CFC women’s sea­son

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - SPORTS - BY IDRIS GAR­CIA COR­RE­SPON­DENT

Though Fri­day night’s loss at Fin­ley Sta­dium is sure to sting for a while, thoughts of a suc­cess­ful sea­son for the Chat­tanooga Foot­ball Club women may al­le­vi­ate some of the pain.

Top-seeded CFC fell 6-2 to Pen­sacola FC in a Women’s Premier Soc­cer League South Re­gion semi­fi­nal. While Pen­sacola from the WPSL Gulf Con­fer­ence im­proved to 7-0-1, the lo­cal team ended its sea­son with an 8-2 record and the South­east Con­fer­ence ti­tle, a far cry from last year’s onewin sea­son.

“We can take a good per­spec­tive from this,” CFC coach Erin Ri­d­ley said. “We had a great sea­son, and we can take a ton away from it. The girls that came back may not have be­lieved me when I told them they were lay­ing a foun­da­tion for this, but it hap­pened. We said year two had to be bet­ter than year one. It was, and now we’ll look to get even bet­ter in year three.”

CFC kept it tight enough go­ing into half­time at 2-1, but Pen­sacola FC, es­pe­cially Uchenna Kanu, proved too much to han­dle. Kanu was a one-woman jug­ger­naut while lead­ing her team on coun­ter­at­tacks. The quick, pow­er­ful striker net­ted five goals and played a part in her team’s other goal.

She played of­ten out of the mid­field and forced her way ahead of the CFC back­line to cre­ate scor­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties.

“They’re a qual­ity team,”

Ri­d­ley said. “They move the ball well. They’re smart, and they’re at­tack minded. In a lot of ways, that’s the kind of style we want to play.”

Kanu scored twice in the first half and con­tin­ued to cause prob­lems in the sec­ond 45 min­utes. With CFC on the hunt for the equal­izer, Kanu drew a foul just out­side the 18-yard box in the 55th minute.

She deftly bent the ball in­side the far post to pro­vide a cush­ion and se­cure the hat trick. Just five min­utes later, Kanu put an­other free kick on frame, and her team­mate Anele Ko­mani buried the re­bound.

Kanu put in an­other goal be­fore CFC found an an­swer to trim the lead to 5-2.

“We had our mo­ments when we were able to pos­sess the ball and be dan­ger­ous,” Ri­d­ley said. “I don’t think any­one here would say it felt like it was a 6-2 game. The girls showed a lot of heart and guts. They at­tacked and were dan­ger­ous un­til the end.”

Mia Hollingsworth scored both CFC goals. Her sec­ond-half strike came in the 78th minute as she got on the end of a cross from Sum­mer Lan­ter with a nice run. Hollingsworth also scored in the first half, us­ing slick ball-mov­ing skills to evade a de­fender and put one in from close range.

“She’s very sym­bolic of our sea­son and what we’re try­ing to cre­ate here,” Ri­d­ley said of the striker. “She came and can­non­balled in and was all in. She was at all the team-build­ing events and got ex­tras in at every op­por­tu­nity.

“It’s a great thing to get re­warded for that, be­cause it doesn’t al­ways hap­pen. As a team, it was good to see them get re­warded for all their work. Mia is a great ex­am­ple of that.”

Kanu scored one more time, a mere for­mal­ity, in the 85th minute to close the scor­ing. Pen­sacola FC will play the Florida Gulf Coast Dutch Lions at 9 a.m. Sunday in Fin­ley Sta­dium.

Con­tact Idris Gar­cia at sports@ times­freep­ress.com.

STAFF PHOTO BY DOUG STRICK­LAND

Pen­sacola FC’s Keidi Ruth, right, tack­les Chat­tanooga FC’s Car­lie Banks dur­ing their WPSL South Re­gion semi­fi­nal match Fri­day night at Fin­ley Sta­dium. Pen­sacola won 6-2.

STAFF PHOTO BY DOUG STRICK­LAND

Chat­tanooga FC’s Mia Hollingsworth, right, breaks around Pen­sacola FC’s Deanna Green dur­ing a South Re­gion play­off match on Fri­day at Fin­ley Sta­dium.

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