CUMBERLAND GAP — For the fourth time in five years, Oneida hoisted the District 3-A championship trophy here Thursday night, after stunning the home-standing Panthers, 5-4.
The Lady Indians picked up two goals from Aliyah Douglas, two more from Alexea Jones, and Kamryn Kennedy added a fifth goal. Oneida scored first, then consistently matched Cumberland Gap, blow for blow, the rest of the way.
The Panthers, who entered Thursday’s game with an overall record of 14-3, had beaten the Lady Indians at Oneida’s home pitch last month, 6-3.
But Thursday’s rematch wasn’t even close to the same game. While Cumberland Gap was down a key player in sweeper Alana Stallworth — who has an injured foot — Oneida turned things around on both ends of the field. On the defensive side, Ali Smith marked Cumberland Gap’s key forward, Aly Ramsey. Ramsey scored Gap’s first goal, to match an early goal by Douglas, then did not score again the rest of the night.
“Ali stayed with Ramsey and frustrated her all night,” Oneida coach Phil Newport said.
On the other end, Oneida’s one-two approach of Douglas and Jones proved too much for Cumberland Gap’s weakened defense.
“I was sure we were going to get into a shootout, but tonight we could because the breakout was there and we took advantage of it,” said Newport.
Three Oneida players were injured in the game, including seniors Caroline Keeton and Savana Shepard. Their status heading into next week’s region semifinal game against Greenback wasn’t immediately clear.
Thursday’s win was part of an impressive turn-around by Oneida. The earlier loss to Cumberland Gap was part of a three-game skid that included losses to state tournament hopefuls Kingston and Anderson County. None of the three games were close. Since that time, however, the Lady Indians have won four of five games, with the only loss being to Scott High last week. And, for the fourth time in five years, they defeated their biggest soccer rival — Cumberland Gap — in the district title game.
The win was important in more ways than one. While it was for a district title, it also helps Oneida avoid one-loss Loudon in an elimination setting in next week’s regionals. The Redskins, who are in their first year as a Class A team, defeated Greenback 2-0 Thursday in the District 4-A championship game, and will now host Cumberland Gap on Tuesday. That will be an elimination match between two teams that had state tournament aspirations. Greenback is a favorable matchup in Oneida’s quest for a return to the substate; the Cherokees’ resume includes a one-goal win over Oliver Springs and a two-goal loss to Rockwood, two of the teams in the Lady Indians’ district.
Despite the win, Newport said his team did not play well.
“But we kept grinding and made some plays when we needed to,” he said. “Rory in the back end played okay but we fell asleep on a couple of scores and we need to clean that up.”
Newport credited his team for disrupting the flow of Cumberland Gap’s offense. On the other end, he said, “Douglas and Jones were just tough for them to handle and once we had to bring Kamryn up they just could not deal with all our speed.”
Newport said his team did not do a good job of matching Cumberland Gap’s physical nature, “but we are trying to learn from that.”
As Oneida gets set for next week’s regional against Greenback, Newport said his team is good enough “on any given night of producing the way we did (against Cumberland Gap).”