MURFREESBORO — Shane Corley had a simple thought on Sydney O’Hara. “That’s a girl that just refuses to lose.”
His statement came after his senior forward scored her fifth goal in the last two days as her hat trick pushed the Alcoa girls soccer team past Merrol Hyde Magnet of Hendersonville, 4-0, in the Class A state semifinals. The Lady T’s will take on Signal Mountain in the state championship on Saturday at 12 p.m. back at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex in Murfreesboro. A win would give Alcoa its first soccer state title.
“I’m just so excited,” O’Hara told The Daily Times. “I guess I had a few hat tricks during the regular season, but this one is obviously different. To have it in the state tournament just makes it even better. It’s just awesome.”
Despite the lopsided score, the game wasn’t always smooth sailing for the Lady Tornadoes (18-3-4), who watched Merrol Hyde (13-6-1) dominate the majority of the first half. The Hawks outshot Alcoa 4-1 over the first 30 minutes of the game.
The forward took a pass from Jada Johnson in the 18-yard box and O’Hara was able to push it by a diving keeper to get Alcoa off to an early lead in the 30th minute. From that point on the Lady T’s settled in, out-shooting the Hawks 10-1 the rest of the way.
“It just gave me such a boost of confidence,” O’Hara said. “I just started playing harder after that first goal, and honestly I think we all did. We were able to settle down for the rest of the game.”
Johnson wasn’t in the starting lineup, but that didn’t stop the sophomore from providing a much needed spark off the bench. After she assisted O’Hara with a nice cross in the box, she wasted no time in capitalizing on that momentum.
Peiton Bledsoe led Johnson with a great through ball running down the left side and the sophomore was able to out-run the Hawk defense to the ball. She corralled the pass inside the 18 and finished a point blank shot on goal just one minute after O’Hara opened the scoring.
“We’ve been waiting for that spark all year from (Johnson),” Corley said. “In the postseason, she’s been able to do it for us. We’ve told her what she can mean to this team, and told her at some point she was going to come through big for us. Hopefully she believes us after that.”
After Johnson helped send Alcoa into the half with a 2-0 lead, O’Hara quickly put the game away. She scored one minute into the second half after the Merrol Hyde keeper misplayed a ball in the box and O’Hara capitalized by putting it away.
She then capped the scoring after Taylor Moore, another contributor off the bench, found O’Hara with a through ball down the right side, and she was able to chip the shot past the keeper to put the game out of reach in the 63rd minute.
The Lady Tornadoes have taken advantage of their first trip to the state tournament, winning their first two games by a combined 6-0, and Alcoa has kept its shutout streak alive.
The Lady T’s have given up just 13 goals on the season and haven’t allowed a goal since tying Webb 1-1 in the regular-season finale. Alcoa has shut out all seven opponents in post season play and has outscored those teams 38-0. Riley McDonald has saved all four shots on goal she’s faced in the state tournament.
“When we sat down and started talking about goals, I told them there are no in- between goals,” he said. “I told them last week that I’ll give back the region championship and the district championship if we can have this one. This is the one we want. They’ve responded. They believe they can do it and they’re showing that they’re worthy.”