WHITE HOUSE – The 21st time proved to be charm for the White House Heritage girls soccer team.

After going 0-18-2 against White House, the Lady Patriots finally broke through and beat the Lady Devils for the first time in school history Thursday night. The 6-1 victory came in front of a pro-Heritage crowd, even though the game was played at White House.

White House Heritage coach Rett Roach said his team was tired of playing “little sister” to its crosstown rival. The victory also gave the Lady Patriots the District 9-AA regular season title for the first time.

“I think the little sister grew up tonight,” Roach said.  “Finally. All the credit goes to (our players).”

Heritage celebrated the victory with its large contingent of fans that made the short trip to the Sumner County side of the city. But for the players, there was as much relief as there was jubilation.  

“It feels like we can breathe,” Heritage senior Alex Green said. “It’s a monkey off our back.”

Heritage got the scoring started early when Alayna Richardson buried a shot from distance just five minutes into the contest. Cassie Gardner added a goal off a rebound in the 22nd minute, and Green scored in the 39th minute to make it 3-0 Heritage at halftime.

A strike from Abby Tolbert in the 61st minute put the Lady Patriots up 4-0, and Ella Bryant tacked on a goal four minutes later. Green added her second goal on a shot from deep in the 85th minute.

Baylee Miller tallied White House’s lone score in the 83rd minute. White House freshman goalkeeper Jordan Turner exited the game early in the second half after getting injured on a diving save. She was replaced by Abigail Bradley.

“(Heritage) is a talented team,” White House coach Mike Felzien said. “We knew it was going to be rough coming into this. Hopefully, if we see them again in districts, who knows.”

Heritage has come painfully close to beating White House in the past. The teams battled to a 3-3 draw in a regular season match last year.

“We’ve come so close,” Roach said. “We’ve had blowout losses, we’ve had close losses, we’ve had heartbreaking ties. But it takes a team to get over that hump. It takes a group of players to put the mental side of it away and just come play.”

Green and Tolbert said the closeness of this year’s team has made a difference. The players go out to eat together, have pool parties and sleep over at each other’s houses.

“We’re like a big family,” Green said. “You have that connection, and it’s easier to play with someone that you love. This team is really close.”

That has translated into on-field success. The chemistry created by spending time together has created a level of comfort the squad did not have with each other last season, according to Tolbert.

“I feel like we clicked more as a team this year,” Tolbert said. “Last year, we were individually good. This year, we’ve bonded more. We know ahead of time what’s going to happen (on the field).”

The Lady Patriots (7-2-3) earned the No. 1 seed for the District 9-AA tournament, which will be held the week of Oct. 14. But Tolbert said that doesn’t mean the team will be looking too far ahead.

“We take it one game at a time, really,” Tolbert said. “We were too focused (on the future) last season. We just worry about the game that we’re (playing). That’s helped out a lot.”

White House (5-9) will wrap its regular season by traveling to Harpeth Hall on Oct. 8 and hosting Lipscomb Academy Oct. 10. Heritage will travel to Hendersonville Oct. 8 and host Station Camp for Senior Night Oct. 10.

But the Lady Patriots can rest easy for a few days. They don’t have to play second fiddle to White House for the first time in their 13-season history.

“It was all about getting over that mental hurdle,” Roach said. “It’s a good feeling. Everybody is going to sleep well tonight.”

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