Granger leads dangerous Bearden front line into playoffs

Jacob Steimer

Since losing to Farragut on September 22, the Lady Soccer Dogs are 5-0 and giving up an average of only a goal a game. They’ve scored 39. Kristi Granger leads the Bearden attack with 27 goals on the season and has proven a more than adequate replacement for all-time Lady Soccer Dogs goal scorer Sam Turner. Defenses from around East Tennessee will make shutting down Granger their top priority as Bearden starts the postseason next week. “When she’s on, she’s very hard to stop, which makes her one of the best players in the state,” Bearden head coach Eric Turner said. In the Catholic game Oct. 4, Granger had four goals in less than three fourths of the game. “If I give her the ball, I know that one out of seven times she’s going to score,” senior midfielder Jessica Logan said. Granger has a knack for scoring goals when there is no space around her, an attribute exemplified by a time, Logan said, that Granger worked the ball away from the four defenders guarding her to score. “I honestly did not see how she did it,” Logan said. “It was just, like, ‘Thank you, Kristi’.” The most cliché thing to say of a great soccer player is that they have the ball on a string, but Logan thinks this applies to her forward. “When she has the ball, it looks like it doesn’t even leave her foot, like it’s attached to her,” Logan said. One of Granger’s best traits, though, is the ability to take on the best the other team has to offer. “She’s always getting the best defender and she’s marvelous,” Coach Turner said. Coaches like effort, and Coach Turner likes Granger’s. “She’s got a motor on her, that she can just go, go, go, all game,” Coach Turner said. He may like her effort, but everybody seems to like Granger also. She received the “Friendliest” senior superlative. “Friendly” would not, however, be the way to describe her style of play. A definite switch is flipped come game time. “I don’t even know how she does that,” Logan said. “She’s not friendly on the field.” Her competitiveness would leave her opponents baffled at her superlative, a quality which Coach Turner encourages. “You can be a nice girl off the field and then on the field, you can get after it,” Coach Turner said. As if being a great scorer with a great attitude were not enough, Granger, as a captain, is expected to be a senior leader, a role that does present some challenges. “We feel the pressure that this is our last chance to prove ourselves,” Logan said, “or get our picture on the wall, or get that ring, finally.” Granger has been sure to do her part. “When there’s no one else carrying the team,” Coach Turner said, “she’s carrying it.” As Bearden heads into the playoffs next week, Granger will be heading into her last school associated games, choosing not to commit to a college career. “I think I’ll be sad next year when I’m not playing, but I think I’ll be glad to have the freedom,” Granger said. The team unity of these Bulldogs, besides being one of their biggest advantages, is something Granger will miss even more than the beautiful game itself. “We’re all just such different girls but we all mesh so well,” Granger said. “That’s probably what I’ll miss most.” Bearden soccer will miss her too.