Blount Press Row

Knight In Shining Armor

Freshman helps end region semi early; Lady Tornadoes reach first substate

Alcoa freshman Shelby Knight flicks a pass by a University High defender during Tuesday’s Region 1A semifinal at Alcoa. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Her feet still hadn’t reached the floor at her desk as a seventh-grader at Alcoa Middle School.

Now an Alcoa High School freshman, Shelby Knight bursts into laughter when she talks about it.

“I was so short my feet didn’t touch the floor,” she said. “They would just dangle.”

America, we have ourselves a hero.

Madison McClurg gets into a drive at the touchline. McClurg teamed with Knight for the finishing goal with 18 minutes left.

Knight closed Alcoa’s Region Region 1A semifinal with University High on Tuesday with a flourish, delivering a goal and the clinching assist as the Lady Tornadoes ended it early, 9-0, on a chilly evening for soccer.

The win advances Alcoa (14-3-2) to its first region championship match and claims for the Lady Tornadoes their first sectional birth.

Alcoa travels to Chuckey-Doak on Thursday to decide the region title, the winner home for substate on Saturday.

The Lady Tornadoes claimed the program’s first district championship with a 5-0 win over Cosby last Thursday.

“It’s a good soccer team,” Alcoa coach Shane Corley said. “They play well and they understand what to do on the field. We’ve set a goal of what we we want to achieve this year, and that goal is next week (reaching the state tournament).”

Now, a little more about Knight’s big night.

Lexi Bearden got Alcoa on the board with 22 minutes to play in the half, left-footing home a nifty lob from the right side to the far post. McKinna Murr followed two minutes later with a perfectly angled ball out of midfield that found striker Mya McKinney running free down the left side. Touching up once to shake a defender, McKinney right-footed a blast to the far post for a 2-0 lead.

Striker Sydney O’Hara put home a hat trick on Tuesday to help Alcoa claim its first sectional berth in program history.

The goals poured home for the Lady Tornadoes from there.

Madison McClurg, who would feature prominently in the big finish, knocked home a rebound off a free kick for a 3-0 lead. Bearden’s ground-hugging finish from 8 yards in front made it 4-0 Lady Tornadoes with 13 minutes to play in the half. Knight introduced herself with a rebound-putback for 5-0.

With four minutes until the break, Sydney O’Hara opened her account on a forthcoming hat trick, driving a sure blast into the roof of the netting for a 6-0 advantage.

“I was not giving up on the goal,” O’Hara said. “I’d been trying to score all night. I saw the keeper start to come out, and I knew what to do.”

When play resumed, all that was left to decide was could Alcoa end it early on the nine-goal advantage?

O’Hara had the Lady Tornadoes at the doorstep in minutes. The talented frontrunner first collected a McClurg throw-in, circled to the end line and found a tough, tough angle to the far post to make it 7-0. Minutes later, she carried to the 6-yard box for a similar rip to open the lead to 8-0.

Temperatures had plummeted by that point. With 18 minutes left, Knight teamed with McClurg to send everyone home.

Knight knocks the ball into the attack and gives chase.

Collecting at the top of the 18, Alcoa’s diminutive playmaker spotted McClurg angling across the penalty area from the right side.

“At first I thought I had flubbed it,” Knight said. “She (McClurg) was there, and I said, ‘Yes!’”

McClurg one-timed the keeper with a perfect stab to close the show.

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