Coach Andy Byrd is hoping his Lady Raiders can level their soccer record in next weekend’s second annual Cleveland Classic.
Cleveland’s soccer team improved to 2-3-1 Thursday by dominating Ooltewah. The scoreboard, and the 1-0 score, was no indicator of the overwhelming edge the Lady Raiders enjoyed throughout the match at the Greater Cleveland Soccer Complex on Mouse Creek Road.
Cleveland had 17 shots on goal over the two 40-minutes periods, holding the Lady Owls without a single scoring attempt ... and very few ventures into Cleveland territory
More than 75 percent of the playing time was spent on Ooltewah’s end of the field. Continued penetration pressured the visitors during the match, but Cleveland was able to finish off only one of its drives.
One drive to the Ooltewah goal ended with four successive shots on goal. Ooltewah’s goalie blocked the first two, and the final two scoring attempts failed because of the number of players, offensive and defensive, in front of the goal.
Another big scoring opportunity from the right side by freshman McKenzie Harris sailed just wide of the net.
The only score of the match came at 31:35 of the first half when junior Megan Barker lofted a shot over the Ooltewah goalie to the back, left corner of the net. No one realized there would be no additional goals over the final 75 minutes of the match.
“The 1-0 score is not reflective of our effort,” Coach Byrd told his girls after play had ended. “We were not finishing it off. We have to finish off our opportunities.”
Byrd criticized the Lady Raiders’ shot selection.
“A lot of shots came from midfield, and that’s not good,” he said. Byrd did praise his team for “putting your head on the ball.”
Another good indicator of Cleveland’s dominance was that senior goalie Alison Simpson did not touchdown the soccerball in the second period, having only a couple of touches in the first half.
“Sometimes the soccer gods shine on you,” Coach Byrd said after the District 5-AAA victory. “That happened to us tonight. We’ll take it (the victory), but it wasn’t pretty.”
“The scoreboard can be an ugly indicator (as to what happened in the game),” he added.
Byrd said Ooltewah had some players who performed well, “but they’re in a rebuilding year,” he added.
The Cleveland coach was pleased with the play of his first-year players.
“Our freshmen (11 of them) are special,” he said. “At times we’ll have four or five freshmen out there.”
Byrd said his freshman players, and other team members, need to be more aggressive.
“We need to be more assertive and finish drives off (with scores),” he said.
The Lady Raiders had only a single victory over Sevier County coming into Thursday’s district match with Ooltewah. They were beeaten in a Knoxville tournament by Bearden, Greeneville and Chattanooga Christian and tied Christian Academy of Knoxville.
Coach Byrd hopes his team will continue to improve in practices prior to the Cleveland Classic next weekend. In tournament play, there will be two games on Thursday, Sept. 16, with two full days of competition on Friday and Saturday. Competition will be at the Cleveland Soccer Complex.
Joining Cleveland in the Classic will be East Ridge, Silverdale, Soddy-Daisy, Farragut, Alcoa, Grace Academy and Ooltewah. Each team will be guaranteed three games.