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Tillett's Lady Red Wolves win conference tournament

CHAMPIONSHIP: Huntington native Hannah Tillett and the Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves won the Southeast Conference tournament championship on Sunday after defeating the Nashville Rhythm 3–2 in thrilling fashion.

by Eric Andrews - eandrews@h-ponline.com

Huntington native Hannah Tillett’s Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves captured the Southeast Conference tournament championship over the weekend.

The Lady Red Wolves, based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, compete in the Women’s Premier Soccer League, a nationwide developmental league for amateur players.

Chattanooga entered the postseason as the Southeast Conference’s regular season champions after posting an 8–1–1 record, earning the top seed in the conference tournament.

The Lady Red Wolves opened the conference tournament against fourth-seeded Peachtree City MOBA on July 5 in a semifinal matchup.

Given the conference’s schedule format, the two teams were familiar with each other, as Chattanooga opened their season with a pair of games against Peachtree City MOBA, winning 4–0 and 5–2.

Though the regular season games were one-sided and high-scoring affairs, the tournament contest would not follow suit, instead being a defensive battle throughout.

Despite Peachtree City MOBA hanging on for dear life, the Lady Red Wolves escaped with a narrow 1–0 shutout victory thanks to a tally by Carlie Banks, who played collegiately for NCAA Division I Louisiana State University.

The semifinal win moved Chattanooga into the tournament championship, where the Lady Red Wolves were pitted against the second-seeded Nashville Rhythm. Like Peachtree City MOBA, Chattanooga was also familiar with Nashville having played twice in the regular season.

However, the Rhythm were the only team able to crack the Lady Red Wolves in the regular season, as the teams split their two-game regular season series with Nashville taking the first game 2–0 before a Chattanooga 1–0 win in the second matchup.

The tournament championship game was nothing short of thrilling, as the decision took a late comeback from the Lady Red Wolves.

Nashville opened the scoring in the 27th minute thanks to a strike by former Ole Miss standout Addie Forbus for a 1–0 Rhythm lead.

Forbus was just getting started, though, as she doubled Nashville’s advantage to 2–0 in the 58th minute off a penalty kick tally, putting Chattanooga’s backs to the wall.

Despite their season’s future in jeopardy, Tillett and the Lady Red Wolves refused to back down. Tillett helped get Chattanooga on the board in the 70th minute, as her shot on goal after a run to the net bounced off the goaltender to teammate Hollie Massey, who made no mistake to cut the Lady Red Wolves’ deficit to 2–1.

Though relatively quiet throughout the match, Banks finally made her mark in the 83rd minute when she curled a 25-yard shot around the Nashville keeper to knot up the score at 2–2, restoring Chattanooga’s championship hopes in the process.

With time ticking down and extra time looming, it seemed as though the contest would head to sudden death. But, Brittney Reed of the Lady Red Wolves had other ideas. After Chattanooga earned a penalty kick, Reed sent her shot inside the left corner of the Rhythm goal to complete the comeback for a 3–2 Lady Red Wolves lead.

Chattanooga held on for the last few minutes of the contest to walk away with a stunning 3–2 conference-tournament-deciding comeback victory.

“I believe in this group no matter what,” Banks said in an interview for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. “We are all friends, and the unity showed in an amazing way tonight. We made it exciting, to say the least. For Brittney to step up in that moment was amazing.”

With the win, the Lady Red Wolves punched their ticket to the regional level of the postseason, where they are slated to face the Charlotte Lady Eagles on Saturday.

Charlotte enters as the victors of the Carolina Conference South Division, holding an 8–0–1 record. Chattanooga enters regional play sporting a 10–1–1 season mark.

Game time between the Lady Red Wolves and Lady Eagles is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central at the University of West Florida in Pensacola, Florida.