MURFREESBORO ‑ Valor Prep’s three-year varsity soccer program has every reason to make excuses about why it shouldn’t compete for state championships.
The Wildcats play their home games at Belmont’s Rose Park. They hold practices at the Metro Soccer Complex near the Nashville International Airport. Coach Paul Elkins periodically stops practice, holds up his index finger so not to have to shout over the noise of commercial flights overhead.
But Valor has been to two straight Class AA state championship games. The Wildcats lost to Page last year. But on Friday, they captured the school’s first state title with a 1-0 victory (4-3 penalty kicks) against Greeneville at the Siegel Soccer Complex.
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“It was a marathon game and it took forever before I had my penalty kick,” senior Jad Rahme said. “But when we got that last save, the release of emotions, all the hard work, the loss we suffered last year it all just went away. It melted away and I was just … it was like all of the frustrations never existed.”
Wildcats goalie Mitchell York stopped Greeneville’s final two penalty shots and Rahme’s goal was the deciding score as York’s teammates mobbed him and Valor fans rushed the field. It was the second straight state title game to go to a penalty shootout Friday, coming on the heels of Madison Magnet’s Class A win over Alcoa.
“It was just a guy thing,” York said. “Their last guys didn’t look up at all. I guess right. He went right. I decided I was going right no matter what. If he went the opposite way, so be it.”
But Greeneville’s kicker drilled the ball over York head, forcing York to throw his left arm up. The ball hit off York’s plam and floated up and over the crossbar.
“You have no idea how incredible that felt,” York said. “When it went into the air, I just knew we won the state championship.”
Valor Prep finished 17-4-3 and has never missed a state tournament. The program was 15-3-1 in its first year, losing to Merrol Hyde in the Class A quarterfinal. The championship loss to Page in 2022 wasn’t that unexpected considering the program was new to the experience.
“Last year we had no idea we could get that far,” Elkins said. “We didn’t even know what to expect. But this year we set the goal, from the start, that this is where we want to be. We wanted to be right back here for another shot.”
Reach sports writer George Robinson at ge[email protected] and on Twitter @Cville_Sports.