Published Jun 24, 2022
Written By:  Cassidy Hettesheimer
             South Region Contributor

TN Force FC had some catching up to do, but its players and coaches were up to the task.

The team had only played one match prior to the week of June 11, versus the other Southeast Conference teams’ three or four matches thus far. However, a bustling eight days, four matches, and three wins later, the Force is looking ahead to its final three matches now solidly in second place in the Southeast Conference.

Here’s how the team got there-- and what comes next:

The Force had three weeks off between its first match of the season-- a 3-0 win over North Alabama SC on May 20-- and its next match, an 8-0 win, again against North Alabama, on June 11. Head coach Laban DeFriese says the team, which is making its WPSL senior-level debut this season after jumping up from the WPSL U21 level, has been working each week to “improve their overall understanding of the game.”


“I try to introduce our players to challenging concepts, ideas and techniques regarding our build outs, possession and defensive pressures, that they may or may not get introduced to at college,” DeFriese said.


The Force’s impressive recent form comes in part from a scoring spree by forward Allison Hanford, an incoming Liberty University freshman from Athens, Tenn. Hanford had five goals in four matches, including a first-half brace in TN Force’s 3-0 win versus Chattanooga FC on Wednesday, June 15.

But Hanford hasn’t been the only player bagging goals for the Force. In TN Force’s win over Chattanooga, University of South Carolina’s Brinley Murphy scored in the second half to extend the Force’s lead.

This win came after a plethora of Force players scored in the team’s 8-0 win over North Alabama to begin the eight-day, four-match stretch. In this season's home opener, Hansford and Nele Bauer both had a brace, while Murphy, Kendall Wade, Addison Smith, and Alivia Scott each scored once.

TN Force’s defense has shone as well, with four shutouts in five matches so far this season. The backline helped the Force see out the team’s 1-0 win over Alabama FC on Saturday, June 18-- a result that determined which team would sit in second place within the conference standings.


“Coach Laban believes in defense starting at the forwards and ending with the keeper,” Tom Hansford, TN Force owner and general manager, said. “Nineteen girls and two coaches would get player and coach of the game for Saturday.”


Goalkeeper Michaela Reeves and defenders Scott, Lawson Renie, Madi Gross, Tara Katz, Bree Ooten, and Triniti Rutherford held Alabama FC scoreless as Hansford, assisted by Katie Hausladen, scored the second-half goal to put the Force ahead.

Reeves, committed academically to the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga for the Fall, stepped up and “came out of a six-week retirement to cover this game as our other three goalkeepers were unavailable,” said Hansford.

The Force’s only loss in this eight-day span was falling short, 5-3, to the Nashville Rhythm on Sunday, June 12. Nashville leads the conference with 13 points, just ahead of the Force’s 12. Considering Nashville’s undefeated record and the match being the day after TN Force played North Alabama, the Force kept the match competitive, closing part of Nashville’s 5-1 second-half lead.

Now, with three matches remaining in the season, the Force will look to see if it can jump past Nashville and its high-octane offense that’s fifth in the WPSL in goals scored. The Force will also need to keep Alabama FC, third in the conference with 10 points, at bay.

TN Force will play both of these teams again before the season ends-- Alabama FC on Friday, July 1, then Nashville on July 2 to end the regular season and a tough weekend against two of the conference’s top teams.

First, however, the Force will play hosts to Chattanooga FC on June 26. After beating Chattanooga 3-0 last week, the Force will look to pick up another three crucial points against its in-state opponents that will be coming off a Friday match against Nashville. Chattanooga currently sits at fourth in the conference, seven points back from Alabama FC but with three matches left to play.

How these final matches shake out will determine seedings for the Southeast Conference Championship in which the top four teams will play a “mini-tournament” to crown the conference champion, with semifinals on July 8, then the championship on July 10. The conference champion will then move on to Regional Playoffs to compete for the South Region Championship.