Spellings hopes to boot CPA to state title

Tuesday, October 30, 2007 at 11:46pm

Taking a return trip to Chattanooga has refreshed some nice memories for Rita Spellings.

The Christ Presbyterian Academy forward will lead her team into a Class A/AA state soccer tournament quarterfinal matchup vs. USJ today at 1 p.m. at Chattanooga Christian where the Lions hope to deal out more tricks than treats.

Spellings, one of four seniors, was a freshman who was part of the only other CPA soccer team to reach state in 2004.

“I don’t remember too much about the game except that we lost,’’ said the 5-5 Spellings, who has scored a team-high 22 goals for the Lions (15-5-2). CPA and region champ Franklin Road Academy (18-4-2), are Nashville’s two teams in the A/AA tourney.

“I remember it was very exciting time, but as a freshman, I didn’t completely grasp the importance of a state tournament,’’ she said.

“I’ve tried to emphasize to all the underclassmen how special and important this is, without getting too hyped up about it,’’ added Spellings, who plays forward.

Spellings and fellow seniors Hannah McKerley, Caitlin Conley and Amelia Montgomery are trying to add a little more soccer history for CPA.

“If we win (today), that would be the first time our school would have ever reached the semis,’’ Spellings said.

Inheriting a youthful team which included 11 freshmen and sophomores might not have been the recipe for great success for a first-year coach. Yet Brandy Gagliano has guided her first CPA team to 15 wins, with three of the five losses to powerhouse FRA.

“Coming in, I didn’t know what to expect, except I knew we had some talent, but I also knew we had a lot of underclassmen,’’ said Gagliano, 34, a former UNC-Greensboro standout defender.

“But the girls really made the transition easy for me, they’ve been great,’’ said Gagliano, who had been practicing law in the Tennessee Attorney General’s office since graduating from law school at Mercer (Ga.) in 1999.

“They love playing with each other,’’ she said, “it’s been very enjoyable.’’

The Lions have come on strong lately with regional and sectional victories over Harpeth (4-0) and Spring Hill (6-1). Spellings, along with assists leader Savannah Moore, freshman Annie Macsimowics and hot sophomore goalkeeper Grace Hooper, have led the way.

“Our games with FRA have clearly prepared us in getting to the next level,’’ Gagliano said. “They’re a great team with a great coach with a lot of tradition, and it’s helped us in trying to get to their level.’’

FRA meets Knox Catholic at 6 p.m. in the fourth game of the day.

The state tournament will wind up Spellings’ career, as she said she won’t play college soccer. As for college, she said, “it looks like UT, but I’m not sure.’’

• AAA: In the Class AAA division, Franklin and Ravenwood, both District 11-AAA entries, have qualified, with Franklin facing Siegel and Ravenwood taking on Oak Ridge, with those matches at Girls Preparatory School.

• DII-AA: Unbeaten Battle Ground Academy (14-0-5), the runner-up last year, has reached the final four and will meet GPS in the Thursday semis at 3:30 at Baylor. The Wildcats, who lost to St. Agnes in the final last year, won’t have a rematch as St. Agnes lost in sectionals Saturday.

• DII-A: University School of Nashville (12-6-2) will play Harding Academy Thursday at 10:30 a.m. in the semis at Baylor.

• Finals: The AAA and A/AA semis are Thursday and finals are Saturday at GPS. Finals in the DII-AA and A divisions are Friday at GPS.

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