Lady Cyclones soccer in action since ’97 start

Published 5:45 pm Thursday, September 27, 2018

There has been a lot of excitement around the Lady Cyclone soccer team this season as Elizabethton currently sits in second in the Three Rivers Conference.
Boasting a league record of 4-1, the Lady Cyclones trounced Unicoi 9-0 Tuesday night.
But like every program, the Lady Cyclones’ had to start somewhere, and that was back in 1997. Since that time, the Lady Cyclones have been under the leadership of head coach Bill McClay who remembers those first years very well. The soccer field was located behind the high school and since there were no bleachers, coach McClay remembers having to get benches from the high school pool area, so the players had somewhere to sit.
“I had to back my truck up to the pool, get the benches and then bring them back after the match,” McClay said with a laugh.
That first season, the Cyclones would only score eight goals while giving up 62. Elizabethton, however, did pick up the girls’ program’s first-ever win as the Lady Cyclones topped Jeff County, 2-1.
“The first several years we didn’t have a lot of girls who had played much soccer,” said McClay. “The biggest thing for me was to make sure we had a team each year, convincing kids to come back and make sure everyone was having fun.”
McClay said the team averaged around 17 to 20 kids during that time period.
During those first years, the Lady Cyclones had to contend with established programs like Science Hill, Dobyns-Bennett, Tennesee High, and Greeneville.
“We were in their district,” said McClay about the above teams. “I used to say that the only that thing was good about the game was that it wasn’t raining.”
The players from the first Lady Cyclones team knew that the early years would be tough, and McClay said he still has a poem that some of those girls wrote him.
“They talked about how they felt they were climbing a mountain and weren’t going to the see the other side,” said McClay. “But they knew we would get there.”
In 2000, the Lady Cyclones went 4-11, but the games were getting closer, and in 2001, after the girls got out of a conference with schools that were two or three times bigger than them, the Lady Cyclones went 11-7, before going 10-9, 9-6, and 10-6 over the next couple of years.
“That was when we went to AA and were out of the conference with teams like Science Hill,” said McClay.
In 2012, the Elizabethton girls made it to the state tournament. In the years surrounding the Lady Cyclones’ only state visit, they had three substate berths.
The Lady Cyclones are closing in on the end of the 2018 regular season, and hope to see a big postseason run after playing conference leader Greeneville to a 2-1 loss.
Last Friday night, during the Elizabethton football team’s 32-21 win over Tennessee High at Citizens Bank Stadium, McClay was recognized for coaching over 800 matches during his time at EHS.
Elizabethton will be back in action this Tuesday as they host Crockett for Senior Night.

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