ATHENS, Tenn. — Because of goalkeeper Alyssa Johnson, the Ooltewah girls' soccer team will have at least three more practices this fall.
And none of the Lady Owls will be complaining.
Johnson and the defense used a strong bend-but-not-break approach, and an early goal from Christina Cook enabled Ooltewah to defeat McMinn County 1-0 and advance to the District 5-AAA championship match. The other finalist is Soddy-Daisy, a 6-2 victor over Cleveland.
"Maybe it's my fault, but I want to go to practice," Johnson said. "I have to keep things going 110 percent all of the time."
She handled a particularly tough task in the 70th minute, after McMinn County's Haley Ward was fouled in the box. Faced with a penalty kick, Johnson ranged to her right and knocked away Ward's try. That was one of 10 saves for the keeper.
"I knew that this was it: If the shot goes in, we go into overtime and possibly lose," Johnson said. "I was overwhelmed when I saved it, but I really wanted to win. I wanted to move on with my girls. With it being my senior year, I wanted to have a shot at winning a district championship, and we have one."
McMinn (10-9-1) outshot Ooltewah 14-2 and had other opportunities that were knocked away by defenders. The Lady Cherokees changed their attack in the second half and came up with more chances, none better than the penalty kick by Ward, as well as another shot by the senior that Johnson knocked away.
"We played like we planned," Ooltewah coach Rick Adolph said. "We know we have speed up front. We figured we'd take our chances when we could and hoped that we could get one through. We defend well as a unit and know we're going to give up shots, but none were really dangerous."
McMinn coach Brittany Hart was disappointed in her team's effort throughout the match.
"When you don't play 100 percent, you're going to get beat. And we didn't play 100 percent," she said. "We came in thinking we were already in the finals. Ooltewah came to play a soccer game. I think we should have won, but we didn't take care of business and finish our opportunities."