ONEIDA | Oneida turned a 1-0 halftime lead into a 6-0 final here Thursday, avenging a loss to Scott High the last time they played at Jane Terry Hoffman Field and taking a second game in three tries against the Lady Highlanders.
Kenlee Duncan scored her first game of the season on senior night; she was one of six Oneida players recognized before the start of the game. And when halftime rolled around, she was the only player who had scored after a shot that deflected off the cross bar and just across the line to give the Lady Indians a 1-0 lead.
The game was one of ebbs and flows for the longest time. Scott High had some looks early but was unable to connect. After that, Oneida dominated possession for the remainder of the first half, but Duncan’s goal was the only output to show for it.
The second half, though, would be different.
It didn’t start that way; the Lady Highlanders controlled possession for the first 10 minutes of the second half, but were unable to connect. After that, Oneida scored two goals in the span of five minutes to build a 3-0 lead before Scott High coach Eric Henry emptied his bench.
Oneida’s first two goals in the second half came courtesy of Kamryn Kennedy and Lydia Kline.
Henry said that he did not pull his players because of their effort, but because he didn’t want to risk an injury with the start of the postseason just nine days away.
Oneida, unfortunately, did suffer an injury; leading scorer Aliyah Douglas went down with an ankle injury just five minutes into the game and did not return. However, Lady Indians coach Phil Newport said he thinks she’ll be okay.
“She’s been banged up all year,” Newport said. “So we won’t play her Monday (at Cumberland County). We’ll wait until the playoffs start.”
For Oneida, that will be on Oct. 11, when Rockwood visits Hoffman Field.
Newport said his team played exceptionally well in the second half of Thursday’s game.
“I thought our passing in the second half in comparison to the first half was just extraordinarily good,” he said. “That’s what I’ve been talking about over the last several weeks: Getting control of the ball and connecting it well.”
Oneida’s final three goals were scored by Alexea Jones, Claire Burress and Ali Smith.
Ayla Sims and the Lady Indians’ defense earned their seventh shutout of the season.
By the time the game ended, every player who dressed for either team had seen action.
Newport said his team caught Scott High at the right time; the Lady Highlanders were coming off a 5-4, sudden-death win over arch-rival Kingston on Tuesday.
“They had just finished playing what was probably an emotional and exhausting game on Tuesday,” he said. “We caught them at a good time. We couldn’t shake them in the first half, then when the second half started I thought we had more finesse and our fitness got us through that.”
But Henry wasn’t having it.
“We just didn’t play hard,” he said. “People talk about a trap game after a big win. All that’s fine, I guess, if you’re into coach philosophy, but you don’t make excuses. You should play better, and we didn’t play well tonight. We didn’t play as well tonight as we did Tuesday by a long shot.
“It wasn’t a trap game; we didn’t play good soccer tonight,” Henry added. “That was our trap. We fell into our own trap of not playing well.”
Nevertheless, only Duncan’s goal separated the two teams until the game was more than 50 minutes old.
“We didn’t step back on (Duncan) who was sitting at the top of the arc, and she had a good shot on it,” Henry said of the first half goal. “That’s the way it stood for a long time. But I told the girls at halftime, we’re not playing aggressive, we’re not winning any goals across the middle. Our passes were not accurate or crips. We just weren’t finding each other. We completed a lot more passes to orange shirts than white shirts.”
On the opposite side, Newport was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We were fortunate because we moved the ball so well,” he said. “I wish we could bottle that and keep it for the postseason.
“The girls responded really well,” he added. “We’ve started to pick up on the concept of there’s always somebody else open, and once you pass it, you have to make yourself open.”
While Scott High and Oneida have not shared a district since 2016, when TSSAA redistricted and the Lady Highlanders moved to Class AA, they continue to play each season, and it has been a close series through the past several years. Since the start of the 2017 season, when the public-private split and the reclassification occurred, Oneida has won four games, Scott High has won three, and the two teams have tied twice.