KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — An East Tennessee high school soccer team is celebrating one of the biggest achievements any player can dream of — being the top team in the country.
The United Soccer Coaches High School Rankings put Bearden's girls' soccer team as the top team in the country. Their record stands out from the rest with 24 games won, and not a single game lost.
"I started playing soccer when I was three years old. My whole family has been playing soccer ever since I was little," said Peyton, one of the players on the team.
For many players, soccer is more than just a sport. It's an opportunity to connect with friends and to find relief from their daily stress. After a game, they can hang out with other players and chat about the game, school, or anything else on their minds.
"Being out here every day with my best friends just gave me an outlet from school and stress," said Becca, another player on the team.
They started out the season ranked at the top too and managed to hold onto the title at the end. Last year, they were also undefeated — a streak they continued this year.
"We've played some of the top teams not only in our state, but I think Houston was even ranked nationally with us. So, you can say that we played some of the top teams in the country as well," said Ryan Radcliffe, coach of the team. "I think you can push talent aside and just kind of talk about a team that loves to be together, a team that was willing to fight for each other. A team that believes in each other."
There are 42 girls on the team. They practice every day, meeting on the same field and running drills to prepare for each upcoming game. On Monday, they also gathered — this time, off the field.
Friends and family joined them for a banquet to celebrate their success.
"It makes you on top of the world and makes you feel very accomplished," said Peyton.
This was the second year in a row the team was undefeated, and Radcliffe said he hopes to keep the streak going for the third year.
"It feels great," said Becca. "Like they really say, hard work pays off."