ONEIDA | If not for an own goal by Rockwood, the Tigers would’ve been locked in a scoreless tie with Oneida at the half of Tuesday’s (Oct. 11) District 3-A semifinal game at Jane Terry Hoffman Field.
A Rockwood defender deflected a shot by Jillian Cross in the 30th minute of Tuesday’s game, knocking the ball into the goal and giving Oneida a 1-0 halftime lead.
But the second half was a different story. The Lady Indians dominated, taking a 5-0 win to advance to Thursday’s district championship game.
Claire Burress scored twice in the second half, Emilee Sexton scored, and Alexea Jones scored, as Oneida cruised to the win.
“Tonight was easily a tale of two halves,” Oneida coach Phil Newport said. “They played us differently than they had in the first half, electing to mark players in each of the front two lines, putting big on small to harass us a bit.”
Oneida had 13 shot attempts in the first half, but Newport said his team struggled with settling balls.
“We showed some impatience finishing shots,” he said. “The kids listened to my adjustments in the following half and did much better framing shots.”
Newport credited the play of his players on the wings, saying that playing the ball wide allowed Oneida to exploit Rockwood’s decision to focus its defense on the middle of the field.
“Kamryn Kennedy, Presley Queener, Jillian Cross and Emilee Sexton had very good nights giving us repeated opportunities to get the ball in deep,” he said. “Our back line just neutralized Rockwood’s offense. Everyone back there was good.”
Newport said he did not take Rockwood for granted despite his team’s 7-0 win over the Tigers in the regular season.
“You simply must show up every night to play because anyone can close out your year,” he said. “Rockwood played the top team in the other region twice very close. I try so hard to get that point across to my kids.”
Oneida will rematch Cumberland Gap in Thursday’s district championship game. That game will be played on the Panthers’ home field in Claiborne County, thanks to their win over the Lady Indians in the regular season. That game saw Cumberland Gap jump out to a big lead, Oneida charge back to tie, and the Panthers break the tie late on a controversial penalty in the box.
Cumberland Gap also won the regular season meeting last year, but Oneida won in both the district and region championship games. One factor in last year’s postseason was an injury to Cumberland Gap’s all-star sweeper, Alaina Stallworth.
Newport said his team is healthy as it looks to compete with its old rival in Thursday’s title game.
“I think we have relatively good health going into the championship game, and at this point that should give us some energy in that one,” he said.