The firsts keep piling up for Oneida.
The Lady Indians won their first district tournament championship on Oct. 12. Five days later, they hosted a region tournament game for the first time — and earned their first region tournament win. Forty-eight hours later, they won their first region tournament championship. That lifts Oneida to the substate for the first time, where a win would earn the team its first-ever appearance in the state tournament.
Oneida claimed the Region 2-A championship with a dramatic 2-1 win at Jane Terry Hoffman Field Thursday evening, defeating Polk County on penalty kicks in a marathon game.
The two teams played to a scoreless tie in regulation, and were still scoreless after one overtime period.
That sent the two teams to a second overtime, where Polk County finally broke the stalemate with a goal with three minutes remaining. The Wildcats appeared to be headed to an important road victory, but Oneida broke through to score on a direct kick by Sarah Morrow from 25 yards out with 45 seconds remaining, forcing a sudden death overtime.
The first sudden death overtime ended without a score, as did a second sudden death overtime period. That prompted a penalty kick finish.
Polk County’s first shot was deflected away by Alea Jones, who was named District 3-A’s Goalkeeper of the Year last week, after also earning accolades as a freshman last year. The Wildcats, in turn, deflected away a shot by Morrow to start Oneida’s penalty kicks.
But Polk County wasn’t as fortunate on the second shot, as Macy Dunlap drilled the ball past the keeper and into the left corner of the goal.
Shots by Kaitlyn Stringer and Jones narrowly missed, but Oneida had the only goal it would need. Polk County sailed three shot attempts over the bar and Jones deflected away another shot attempt to start the celebration for Oneida. A shot attempt by Gracie Barnes was not needed, after Polk County’s fifth and final shot missed.
“I can’t begin to tell you how calm our huddles were,” said Oneida assistant coach Phil Newport. “The kids remained extremely focused all night and they never quit. When we got down with a little over three minutes left (in overtime), we did not fold. At that point we had lost three starters to injury, but Sarah made a great free kick to tie the game.”
Newport credited the team’s defense for shutting down Polk County’s offensive attack.
“Our defense stood up really well against a prolific offense,” he said. “Alea Jones was really on top of everything and she had dislocated her pinkie finger the day before. It was a very gritty performance by her.”
Oneida appears to be peaking at the right time. The Lady Indians have not lost since a Sept. 25 game against Webb, and have won six consecutive games since ties against Scott High and Corbin, Ky., late in the regular season.
Take away two games against private school powerhouses, and Oneida has given up only nine goals all season. The Lady Indians have twice recorded shutouts in regulation since postseason play began.
“I never thought we would lose once we started playing,” Newport said after Thursday’s game. “You could tell our players were invested. For the last two weeks the team has found another gear — and we have needed it.”
The region championship win gives Oneida one final home game, with Chuckey-Doak visiting for Saturday’s Class A substate game at Jane Terry Hoffman Field on the campus of Oneida Elementary School. A win there would propel the Lady Indians to the state tournament as one of the last eight teams left standing across the state.
Newport said another great turnout will be needed for Saturday’s game, which is slated to begin at 2 p.m.
“The fans have been great. I guess winning does that,” Newport said. “These kids are definitely winners. I am sure of that without even looking at a scoreboard.”
Chuckey-Doak enters Saturday’s sectional game as the runner-up in Region 1-A. The Black Knights have a season record of 11-6-1, and had won eight consecutive games before falling to Alcoa, 4-0, in the Region 1 championship game.
Chuckey-Doak has a powerful offense, and has scored eight or more goals six times this season.