The James Clemens girls soccer team saw its season end one game short of the Class 7A state final with a 2-1 loss to Vestavia Hills.
However, the season was another step forward for the young program in its sixth year.
“I knew this was going to be a building process,” fifth-year Jets coach Erin Riddle said. “Year one and two we weren’t even operating with a full team. (Since) year three, when the girls that are seniors now stepped on, we saw this as a gradual but continual rise to the top over four years.”
The first year for that class ended short of the playoffs. The following season resulted in a first-round exit and last year the Jets lost to Vestavia Hills in the second round. This season the team took it a round further to the state semifinals. This year’s senior class includes Rachel Bradberry, Hannah Swager, Nicole Guay, Emily Pratt, Kelsey Lessmann, Kaley Arnett, Nishma Patel and Ashley Dickinson.
“Mentally and physically knowing that they were going to have to work for it and prove themselves again and again,” Riddle said. “I think that’s one of the benefits of being a new school…you don’t feel entitled to anything. You’re not beholding to anyone’s record but your own. You’re kind of making history. That’s been really cool.”
Bradberry scored Clemens’ only goal in the semifinals loss. Junior Hannah Smid assisted on the play.
Smid will be back next year to help further the program’s growth. Others such as freshman Haley Bedingfield will also be a part of the process.
“She’s fantastic,” Riddle said of Bedingfield.
The team finished 14-4-2 and completed its second consecutive undefeated season at home.