By Joseph Dycus/Chattanoogan.com
Abbey Saddler is only 22 years old, and has done just about everything there is to do in the Chattanooga soccer scene. She played her high school years at East Hamilton, and after a year at Arkansas, the goalkeeper has spent the last three years playing for the UTC Mocs. She had also played for both of the town’s pro soccer teams before being of legal drinking age.
And this summer, Saddler will be able to add “helped revive the Chattanooga FC women’s team” to her extensive football resume.
On what was a scorching Wednesday evening, where temps on the artificial turf exceeded 90 degrees, Saddler deflected a slew of shots in preparation for CFC’s first home game since 2018.
“I used to play with the CFC team when I was 16, so I have game experience playing for CFC at Finley,” Saddler says. “It’s surreal and awesome, because I remember the environment was amazing when I was a teenager. It’s going to be nothing short of that now.”
The team’s first two road games have hardly been storybook stuff, with the team being bounced in Nashville 5-1 during the first week before getting shut out 3-0 the next. But coach Randy Douglas says he saw a much more cohesive team during the second game. He says the team went from barely touching the ball against Nashville to holding their own against their next opponent.
“What I saw the past Friday in Alabama was a much more organized and controlled group,” Douglas says. “We were able to play against a lot of SEC players and hold our own for much of the match. The goals they scored were not errors physically, but were mental errors or someone being out of place.”
Saddler says the team’s soccer IQ has “definitely increased” in the last two weeks. She says this is evident when the team has possession, as CFC’s players are far more comfortable moving the ball around now than they were even a half-month ago.
Saddler also reflected on her own growth as a player and person since the last time she suited up for a CFC home match. Saddler says she would hardly recognize the goalkeeper who was patrolling the crossbars during the team’s first go-around.
“Who I was when I was 16 is completely different from who I am now,” Saddler says. “That also ties into how I play, because how I played at 16 was slightly more immature than how I play now. I think my knowledge of the game has increased a lot too, which makes me a better player.”
When asked who she believes will impact Saturday’s home match against North Alabama, Saddler is compelled to shout out her UTC squadmate, as well as another elder stateswoman on the team.
“My teammate Avery Catlett has a huge impact on our games,” Saddler says. “Her intensity and knowledge of the game is impeccable. And Anna Lanter is a tremendously hard worker and will have a huge impact on the game (on Saturday).”
The team and coaches will look to feed off the energy of a Saturday night crowd that has waited four years for the moment. When the game kicks off at 7:30, no one will be surprised if CFC rolls out to a quick start.
“I think there’s going to be some energy here, because the city has been waiting for this to happen,” coach Douglas says. “I think the fact that we went to two different places and our fans outnumbered the home teams tells us something about how it’s going to be here. We’re going to gravitate toward that energy.”
About Chattanooga Football Club
Chattanooga Football Club was founded in 2009 with a Men's team and established a Women's team in 2013 to begin play 2014. In its most recent season of 2018, CFC Women went undefeated in the regular season to become the WPSL’s Southeast Conference Champions. The Women's team went on hiatus for three years during a club reorganization and during the pandemic. Chattanooga Football Club became the first soccer club to offer true ownership to the fans in 2019 with 3,200+ investors from Chattanooga, all 50 states, and 31 countries.
About the Women’s Premier Soccer League
In its 24th season, the WPSL is the longest active women’s soccer league and with more than 125 clubs from coast to coast in 35 states and, serves as the largest women’s soccer league in the world. WPSL rosters feature elite collegiate, post-collegiate, international, and standout prep student-athletes. Many of the United States’ most accomplished women’s players have played in the WPSL, including household names such as Alex Morgan, Abby Wambach, Megan Rapinoe, Julie Foudy, and Brandi Chastain.