Chattanooga Sits One Point Behind Nashville Rhythm FC with Two Matches Remaining in the Regular Season
Published Jul 10, 2021
Photo Credits:   Jim Myers


The Chattanooga Lady Red Wolves are on the hunt to win their second conference title in as many seasons.  


The Lady Red Wolves joined the WPSL in 2019 and earned instant notoriety by scoring 17 of their 28 goals in the first five matches. To say they had a successful inaugural season is a bit of an understatement. Chattanooga went on to win the Southeast Conference title and was named the 2019 WPSL Franchise of the Year.


Fast forward through a canceled 2020 season, the uncertainty of a global pandemic, and a cautious start to the 2021 season, one would be remiss not to wonder if things might stack up differently for Chattanooga this time around.


“It was certainly a different spring than you would expect...Tryouts looked very different and players were picking up injuries at the end of spring, which then changes your roster right before the season,” Luke Winter, Lady Red Wolves head coach said.


Lady Red Wolves owner, general manager, and coach Gretchen Hammel realized the need to shift their approach heading into the season.


“We knew that with the unpredictability of the pandemic, we would have to be flexible and operate things differently than before,” Hammel said. “But things have gone really well and smoothly this season and we have managed to get through the whole season in a positive way.”


Hammel’s side has undeniably performed well in their 2021 campaign. Through eight matches Chattanooga sits in second of the standings with 19 points, just a single point behind leaders, Nashville Rhythm FC, and holds a 6-1-1 record. They have remained perfect at home, winning each of their four home matches while outscoring opponents 10-1. With only allowing three total goals thus far, Chattanooga has conceded the fewest goals in the conference and has yet to concede a goal in open play – the three goals against them have come from a corner, penalty, and a freekick.


Winter credits the current success to his team’s effort, players’ focused mentality, and consistency with their defensive performance through the leadership of Manchester, England native, and Southern Mississippi University graduate Jess Shepherd as well as having the experience of Canada native and NAIA All-American Danielle Krzyzaniak in goal.


While Chattanooga’s defensive effort has produced six clean sheets this season, the team hasn’t been lacking offensively as 10 of their 14 goals have come from midfielders, Samantha DeBien (two goals/one assist), Mackenzie Smith (two goals/one assist), and Hannah Tillett (two goals/two assists), while forward Summer Hernandez has become the team’s leading scorer with four goals – scoring in half of Chattanooga’s matches.


“She's [Hernandez] a workhorse, she earns and deserves everything she gets,” Winter said. “First game of the year, she is one of the 'older' players, hasn't had a competitive game in close to two years and she was outworking everyone.”


Despite being upfront and leading the attack, Hernandez’s persistent defensive efforts help force turnovers and result in scoring opportunities. Hammel called her “one of, if not the hardest workers in the WPSL.”


Chattanooga’s depth in a roster full of talent and diversity of players have created a special selection of athletes for Winter to pull from. The range of players in various stages of their careers, from former professionals to current and incoming collegiate players, have made Chattanooga very adaptable throughout the season. This benefit has provided Winter the impressive ability to switch up his lineups and attacking formations with ease in response to what is needed on the pitch specific to each match and moment.


Coming into the season with the simple goal of making the experience enjoyable for his players, supporters, and Red Wolves organization, Winter admitted his competitive drive kicked in once seeing the standings after his team won their first two matches over North Alabama SC and Alabama FC, scoring a combined five goals and recording two clean sheets.


Chattanooga has two regular-season matches remaining on the schedule and Winter is optimistic his team can deliver on their hunt for a second conference title.


“The team hasn't played its best game yet, and we are getting stronger,” Winter said.


For their final matches, Chattanooga is set to face Southern Soccer Academy (1-4-2) on back-to-back days on July 11 and 12 to close out the regular season. These two matches were originally postponed earlier in the season due to severe weather.


The Southeast Conference will hold a six-team tournament to crown the conference champion allowing every team the opportunity to compete for the title despite the regular-season finish.


Postseason Structure


#1 and #2 seeds earn a bye and will host.


#3 seed vs #6 seed     July 16

#4 seed vs #5 seed     July 16

Winners from both matches move on to play #1 or #2 on July 17.


Championship Match set for July 18



Watch games live on Eleven Sports, the official streaming partner of the WPSL.



   Author:  Katie Parker;  @KatieParkerTV (twitter)
  WPSL Contributor - South Region