Cumberland Gap locked up a second consecutive regular season championship in District 3-A — and, more importantly, home field advantage in the postseason, with a 6-3 win over Oneida at Jane Terry Hoffman Field Thursday evening.
The Panthers, who completed a sweep of local teams after defeating Scott High 6-2 on Monday, led by only one goal at halftime, but took charge of the game in the second half, building a 6-2 lead before Oneida scored last.
The Lady Indians matched Cumberland Gap’s first goal, which came on a penalty kick, with a score from Kamryn Kennedy. Second half goals were scored by Alexea Jones and Caroline Keeton.
Oneida coach Phil Newport was not happy with his team’s defensive effort.
“We just have to step up in the back going forward,” he said. “Six goals were often because we watched them run through the box and allowed them touches in areas we should have got to first.”
Newport said he shoulders the responsibility for the defensive lapses.
“I plan to tighten that up,” he said. “We allowed too many free runs for No. 25 and she showed why she is one of the top scorers in the state. We marked her with a freshman and a sophomore because they can run with her. We need to shut that of a little better and I think they will.”
Newport was carded early in the game for arguing a call. After a call in the Oneida box resulted in a Cumberland Gap score, a similar situation was not whistled on the opposite end.
“I just think I was battling for my kids,” Newport said. “We get called for a foul on a ball we were dribbling out of the box, and they get that call. Five minutes later we get upended in the box and that call isn’t made?”
Despite the 6-3 final, Newport said his team had chances to make the game much closer. He pointed to a header that Kennedy narrowly missed over the top late in the first half.
“You know if Kam scores on that header and we get the PK call this could have been much tighter,” he said. “The loss was a disappointment, but the girls have just battled back. Most teams would have just called it but there were a lot of dangerous chances for us late too.”
Newport’s speed up front presented Cumberland Gap with mismatches, forcing the Panthers to make defensive adjustments.
“I tried to free up Aliyah (Douglas) a little, knowing they were going to mark into her, by moving her more than normal,” he said. “She has the green light to make some runs similar to Jones’ score. That was just beautiful ball work there. Keeton battled and she is bound to get something going because the only defense they had on her was to foul her.
“Despite the outcome we grew up a little tonight,” Newport added. “We had a good game plan but we did not execute defensively.”
The two teams could very easily be on a collision course for a rematch in the district championship game next month, though Oneida will have to get by Rockwood in the district semifinals. Those two teams have yet to play their regular season match, but the Tigers only lost to Cumberland Gap by two goals earlier in the season.