Merrol Hyde falls in third consecutive state soccer semifinal

Daniel Brooks hugs his players after their state run ends. By Christina Moore

Scoring, let alone winning, in the state soccer semifinal game has been a challenge for Merrol Hyde Magnet over the last three seasons. 

Each year the Hawks have played beyond their first-round game and have knocked on the door to the state championship – only to fall flat by the final buzzer. 

Merrol Hyde lost 1-0 to eventual champion Austin-East in its first ever semifinal appearance in 2021. Gatlinburg-Pittman went on to win the title after a 2-0 win over the Hawks last year. 

Alcoa was their semifinal opponent this season after Merrol Hyde blanked Harpeth in the opening round. With a 3-0 loss to the Tornadoes, the Hawks couldn’t get over their second-round hump.

“You get to this point and there’s minute details in the game,” head coach Daniel Brooks said. 

“It’s a tough one (to lose). It always is.”

Alcoa took 14 more shots and had eight corner kicks to outpace Merrol Hyde (12-8-3) on offense.

The Tornadoes broke a scoreless tie in the 38th minute when Andrew Knight’s corner kick connected for a header by Bacon Lauderback. 

Momentum faded for the Hawks as the second half progressed. Alcoa (14-9-2) automatically advanced to the semifinals after Sheffield forfeited due to fielding an ineligible player in the sectional. 

“It’s a 1-0 game in the first half and we have some good chances to score, but any team that has to play 80 minutes yesterday in the hot sun and come out here and play against a team that didn’t have to play yesterday, it’s a big advantage,” Brooks said. 

“I don’t put it on that. We still have to come out and handle business. You can’t control certain things, (and) that’s one of the things we can’t control.”

Leonardo Santos tacked on to the Alcoa lead in the second half, and Luis Gonzales set the score on a shot with 10 minutes to play. 

The third goal, Brooks said, came as Merrol Hyde moved to an offensive-centric formation with three strikers up front.

“I’d rather lose 3-0 than sit back and try to finish out a 2-0 loss,” he said. “We’ll give up that goal, but it’s just tough competition and that’s what you expect out of the state tournament.”

Playing through an injury he sustained during Wednesday’s first half, goalkeeper Drew Williamson saved 12 shots for the Hawks.

“I was proud of him to get back into the game,” Brooks said. “That was huge that he was able to continue playing. I can’t say enough good things about Drew Williamson. I’m so proud of him and all of the seniors, really.”

Merrol Hyde graduates six players from this season’s team. Brooks will step away from the program he’s led since 2019 after the defeat.

The coach took time to hug and thank each of his players before breaking one final huddle. 

“It’s emotional just because it’s been such a grind,” he said. “We’ve been going since conditioning in January. That’s five months, and there’s a lot that leads up to this.

“All you can ask from your players is to go out and give you a 110 percent. They did that today – right down to the very last second.”