While the Lady Eagles were coming off of three straight appearances in the state playoffs, they now faced a much tougher Region 5AAAAA that added state powerhouses Walton and Lassiter to its lineup.
But Etowah was able to hold its own, surviving a tougher schedule to finish third in the region and advance to the state playoffs for the third year in a row.
For keeping Etowah in the state playoff picture while facing more challenging competition, Murnan in the 2011 Cherokee Tribune Girls Soccer Coach of the Year.
While Etowah fell from 14-4 a year ago to 9-7 this season, Murnan was proud of the way his team was competitive after a schedule in which 13 of the 17 teams the Lady Eagles played qualified for the state playoffs.
“The results were a little less than expected,” Murnan said, “but we were up against some quality competition. It was a tough schedule, but we were pretty competitive, and we’ve made it to the state playoffs three years in a row, which is the first time for the girls program, so it was nothing to be ashamed about.”
Etowah won its first four games, but then suffered injuries to key starters and proceed to go through a 0-3-1 stretch.
The Lady Eagles bounced back, however, and won six of their last nine regular-season games to make it back to the state playoffs.
“It wasn’t so bad,” Murnan said. “We did have some injuries early on, and it was tough for a little while, but after that, we were OK.”
Etowah certainly had its share of success against Cherokee County teams, winning three of its four games against county foes — including a 4-1 win over archrival Woodstock.
“Woodstock is always the highlight of our schedule,” Murnan said. “It is always a tough game with Woodstock, so beating them is always a big win for us.”
Murnan hopes his Lady Eagles can be even more competitive in 2012 as they lose only three starters from this year’s team.
“We are losing some starters, but we are able to replace them,” Murnan said. “I hope we can be at least as good, maybe even be better.”