Oneida goalkeeper Alea Jones got just high enough to deflect a well-placed Polk County kick. And the Lady Indians could celebrate.
Oneida advanced to the Region 2-A championship game with a 4-3 win in an extra-sessions battle against Polk County that was not decided until a round of penalty kicks.
The Lady Indians had scored first, on a Laurel Blount goal in the second half. But Polk County immediately answered, and the two teams battled through the rest of regulation and two overtime periods with the score tied at one.
After the second overtime, the game moved to a round of penalty kicks. Oneida scored first on a goal by Aliyah Douglas, but Polk County answered on its first kick. The Wildcats then went up one after placing their second kick in the net, and still led, 3-2 after both teams missed their third kick. Emalea Sexton scored on Oneida’s fourth kick to tie the game. Then, Macy Griffith scored on a sixth kick, which turned out to be the game-winner.
Oneida coach Phil Newport was not surprised by the close game.
“I told everyone from what I saw on tape I knew we were going to get challenged,” he said. “I wasn’t low-balling my kids because I knew Polk was good. Film don’t lie.”
Blount’s unassisted goal in regulation was big for Oneida, Newport said. “She has just been so steady this year and the goal was just about being where she needed to be. She’s a great kid and an incredible teammate,” he said.
Polk County hit its first two shots in the round of PKs, but missed four straight after that.
“My goalkeeper was just masterful,” Newport said of Jones. “I cannot begin to explain just how big she was through all that. Her game-winning save was just a brilliant piece of work as she stretched out and deflected the ball wide to win it for us. I told all of them big players come up in big moments and she really did.”
Oneida will face Cumberland County in the region championship game on Thursday. The game will be played at Jane Terry Hoffman Field, beginning at 6:30 p.m. Two previous games between the two schools this season — including the District 3-A championship game — have each been decided by a single goal.
With the win on Tuesday, Oneida also earned a berth in the Class A state sections, and will face either Alcoa or Cosby on Saturday with a trip to the state tournament on the line. The opponent and location will be determined by the outcome of Thursday’s game.