Ethan Mc Namee just about had a diploma in hand.
If he and his family stayed in their home country of Northern Ireland, the Station Camp junior could have moved into the professional world by now. But they immigrated to the Hendersonville area this fall, keeping Mc Namee in school for at least two more years.
“It was disappointing, obviously,” he said.
Station Camp’s soccer team may have made the move a little more worth it on Wednesday. Mc Namee put the exclamation point on the Bison’s 4-0 win over Hardin Valley that advanced them to Friday’s Class AAA championship game.
“It’s such a relief just to get here and get in the state tournament in the first place, never mind the final,” Mc Namee said.
“When I first came to the school I heard about the history and stuff, but it just took me by surprise. Especially with the way we were playing at the start of the season – it wasn’t really that good.”
Station Camp lost to Class AA White House and did not score against two different teams across its first seven games. Alongside an 11-3 stretch through the region rounds, the Bison won each of their last six games and outscored opponents 13-2 in regulation since the region tournament.
They needed strong play from senior goalkeeper Aldo Fonseca again in the semis. Chaz Ballweber put the Bison ahead one minute before halftime on Wednesday, but Hardin Valley (13-4-6) threatened to match it on a penalty kick in the 48th minute.
Fonseca lunged to his right and got a hand on Duwayne Powers’ kick, deflecting it from the back of the net.
“I definitely think that Aldo making that save was the turning point in the game,” senior Jak Kemp said. “It gave us composure to be able to slow down. Landon Sarduy had a fantastic performance down the right side, and Ryan (Hendon) also had a fantastic goal. The second one was what kind of gave us confidence to be able to play.”
Fonseca finished with five saves for the Bison (18-5-1), and the freshman Hendon doubled their lead with a shot midway through the second half.
Gavin Bruce (72nd minute) and Mc Namee (76th) followed him with strikes to seal it.
“The one thing we wanted to see from us is starting better,” Station Camp head coach Jeremy Cooke said. “We’ve been starting off slow … so we wanted to make sure we started off well, and I thought we did that. We were all over them. We didn’t score but we still started well.
“I would have never seen this coming if you told me about this at the beginning of the season. These boys have changed everything around, and they deserve all the credit.”
They now move to the state championship game for the first time since 2019. Station Camp faces Brentwood, which snapped the school’s five-year state tournament streak in last year’s sectional.
The Bruins (24-0) scored in the final minute of their semifinal match against Bartlett to remain unbeaten on the season.
“We couldn’t want to play Brentwood more,” Kemp said. “There’s no team we would want to play more … this is who we want and this is who we prepared for.
“I think that our heart as a team has been better than any team that I’ve played with – Station Camp or with club or Nashville SC (Academy). This team plays so well together. We don’t have the talent that we’ve had in the years before – and we knew that going into this season – (but) we played a different style and it’s helped us to play really, really well.”