This season was a step in the right direction for the Chattanooga Football Club women’s team. The soccer club expects that upward trend to continue next year, too.

The CFC women closed their 2016 schedule with Thursday night’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Atlanta Silverbacks at Finley Stadium, finishing with a 3-6 record.

CFC’s women increased their offensive output in head coach Drew Courtney’s first season. They scored 11 goals in nine matches, with Carlie Banks, Elisha Fry, Ashley Harber and Summer Lanter notching two each to lead the team. Mara Deluca, Kelly Downs and Madison Ricketts scored the others.

Courtney was the club’s third coach in as many seasons. As a result, there’s been a lot of turnover on the roster as well, but many of this year’s players expect to be back next season.

It’s clear what advantages that could provide CFC.

When you watched us play tonight, you could tell that a lot of their (Atlanta’s) players had been together for a while,” Fry said Thursday.

CFC players bonded throughout this season, though, forming close relationships.

One that didn’t need much cultivating was between sisters Clair, Summer and Anna Lanter. Clair is the oldest of the three, and the last season and a half have provided opportunities to play with her younger sisters that would not have otherwise happened.

That’s the biggest reason I wanted to play,” Clair said. “It’s been incredible. I’m so thankful Chattanooga has a way for us to do that. Last year was the first year I’d had the chance to play with any of my sisters, so to play with both on the same team when competing is awesome.”

Courtney expects to be back next season after leading a lineup that made strides throughout the summer.

I thought we played our best soccer the last several weeks,” the former CFC player and current Bryan College men’s soccer coach said. “We had a bunch of girls who didn’t know each other well continue to get to know each other and play a style together. It’s been fun to watch and help these girls grow.

I love the Chattanooga Football Club. I want to be invested in it. My mind’s already going to how can we prepare for next season, and there are ways to go about that. I’m excited to continue to push us to better heights next season.”

General manager Gretchen Hammel, another CFC alum, was pleased with the progress the club made and hopes it continues to take positive strides in 2017.

We have a lot of pressure because we’re with the CFC men, but we’re still building,” said Hammel, who’s also head coach for girls’ soccer at Grace Academy. “We’re steadily building. We’ve grown in some way every year. I don’t think we’ve taken any steps backwards.

We have our sights set on the top just like the men’s side. It’s going to take time, but it was a good year.”

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenleytfp.