Alcoa jumped to a 2-0 lead early in Saturday’s Class A substate game against Oneida, and the Lady Indians were never able to quite overcome the slow start, as the Tornadoes advanced to Murfreesboro with a 5-2 win in the elimination game.
Playing without junior forward Aliyah Douglas, the team’s top scorer, Oneida was nevertheless able to keep things close for a half, trailing just 3-2 at the intermission. But Alcoa was able to pull away in the second half by scoring a pair of unanswered goals.
It marked the fourth consecutive year that Alcoa has eliminated Oneida in the substate. Lady Indians coach Phil Newport, who before the season spoke with the Independent Herald about wanting to “bust down the door” after so many years of knocking on it, expressed his disappointment that his team had once again come up just short of a state tournament bid.
“It’s been a hard night and I guess my frustration comes from repeatedly being here and just not able to push through,” Newport said. “I love the kids. I talked to them about our growth as a team and their continuous improvement as individuals.”
Alexea Jones and Claire Burress both scored for Oneida. Jones’ goal made it 2-1. After Alcoa had again stretched the lead to two, Burress scored to make it 3-2, and that’s the way things stood until halftime.
“It seems we got behind the eight ball tonight and just couldn’t level things back up,” Newport said. “The kids managed to stay with it with the score 3-2 at halftime. I am proud of my kids and I am offering no excuses because Alcoa managed to stay in front of us all the way.
“We missed Aliyah, we weren’t on our toes defensively, and some calls curiously went away from us at pretty inconvenient times,” he added.
The loss ended a magical postseason run for Oneida that included both district and region championships, both coming with wins over a Cumberland Gap team that few gave the Lady Indians a chance to beat in the preseason.
“We won district and region championships when that was not everyone’s popular choice and truthfully it won’t be next year either because Cumberland Gap gets just as many back as we do,” Newport said. “I am happy that we stretched our potential.”
Saturday’s game was the last for several Oneida seniors, including key starters Caroline Keeton and Savana Shepard. The Lady Indians will graduate several reserve players as well, including Jaden Terry, Madison Jones, Anastasia Harness and Kamryn Krahn.