USC commit Murphy leading unbeaten Bearden soccer in scoring, but getting plenty of help


Olivia Hailey

Brinley Murphy has scored 22 goals this season to lead the Lady Bulldogs, but Bearden is generating plenty of offense from all over the field.

The Bearden girls soccer team has a – nearly – unblemished record so far this season.

The Lady Bulldogs’ game against Catholic was scoreless when it was stopped a few minutes into the second half due to thunderstorms. Per TSSAA rules, the game was ruled a draw. 

Other than that, Bearden has won every match it has played, including its first four district matches, setting up Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game at Maryville as a de facto district championship game.

“I would like to think that we have been in enough big games this year and have faced so many different challenges that it has battle tested us enough to overcome whatever may happen in district play,” Coach Ryan Radcliffe said. “Ultimately, we have to be able to have a new focus and new determination in each district match and adjust as a team to who we are facing.”

When the TSSAA reclassified after this past school year, the Lady Bulldogs got put into “The District of Death,” which includes not only Maryville, but also Knox County rivals and powerhouse programs Farragut and Hardin Valley.

“Rad calls it the District of Death and it’s very difficult,” junior forward Brinley Murphy said. “Our district semifinals could be against either Farragut or Hardin Valley, which is crazy for a district semifinal.”

Instead of seeing one or both of those schools deeper into the playoffs, at least two of those four will not advance beyond the district tournament.

In addition to the team’s overall success, Murphy has ramped up her play in the past few weeks to match her college recruitment ramping up as well.

Murphy has been getting recruited by big name programs for quite some time now. Ultimately, on a recent visit to South Carolina, she went to a game and committed to the school on her visit.

“I’ve been getting recruited since I was in middle school, and South Carolina had been on me since seventh grade,” Murphy said. “I had a really strong connection with them, and they came to watch a lot of my games, so I think that was a major part as I had a strong connection and obviously they’re in the SEC and they always make it in the tournament and are always top 12 or 10 in the rankings, so that’s obviously a big pushing factor.

“And the environment there is just so different, and South Carolina is like my second home. I grew up going to beaches there, I have a beach house down there, so I have a special connection there.”

Since district play began, Murphy has 13 goals with only one of those goals coming in a non-district match. She has 22 on the season.

“Brinley has really turned a corner for us this year,” Coach Radcliffe said. “She is starting to become a leader and a huge energy player for us.

“I believe our team feeds off of her energy and her determination. That, to me, is one of Brinley’s biggest attributes. She never quits and she’s never satisfied. She wants to do whatever it takes to score goals and win games, and I think that permeates through the rest of the girls. She is a great character person who loves the game of soccer, and we as a team feed off of that.”

The Lady Bulldogs defeated West 4-1 on Tuesday with Murphy scoring a first half goal as one of four different goalscorers on the night. While Murphy’s goal-scoring tally is staggering, spreading the scoring around has also been a key to Bearden’s success this year.

“Obviously, we know that opposing teams are going to be aware of Brinley,” Coach Radcliffe said. “We have played many games already this year where teams have a game plan to not let Brinley hurt them. 

“But I think the best part of the team this year is that if teams are going to try and put multiple players on Brinley, we have several other girls that can hurt you if they are left open. … I’d like to think that we are a team that can beat you many different ways. I think this group takes pride in the fact that we are not one-dimensional, and it is hard for teams to try and game plan against us.”