LHS soccer ‘heading in the right direction’ | Sports

After a slow start to the season, the Loudon High School Redskins (3-4, 3-0 District 5-2A) have righted the ship and are a step closer to clinching the No. 1 seed in the District 5-2A tournament.

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The Redskins began district play April 6 with a 6-0 rout of the Clinton High School Dragons and followed up two days later with a 6-1 victory over the Roane County High School Kingston Yellow Jackets.

“We started out the season just real slow, trying to get the team going and these young kids trying to get into it but always having a focus of trying to win these district games,” Yoni Espinoza, LHS head boys soccer coach, said. “Luckily, we showed up to Clinton and it gave us a little bit of, ‘Hey, we can do this.’ After that, we moved on to Kingston, which has a really good offense. We held it together in the back and pulled a game together.”

Senior Cherinet Feezell recorded a personal record five goals against the Yellow Jackets.

“I think those games, that’s what we needed — something to pick up our spirits and just kind of bounce back after those first few games,” Feezell said. “We really needed that and we needed those wins and having that title of being undefeated in the district gives us a motivation. We’re looking for another title, and so that takes another step and that kind of develops us into winning one more game. We had that mindset after winning those games, and that was big for us.”

Loudon picked up a third consecutive win April 13 with an impressive 4-1 victory over Anderson County High School to put the Redskins at the top of the District 5-2A standings.

“That was a really tough competition, and it was a good, good game,” Espinoza said. “I think that’s the game where we started clicking more as a team to where we’re actually trying to touch the ball and trying to move forward as a unit, so I was really happy with where we were going with that.”

Three LHS players were quarantined prior to Thursday’s non-district match against the Pigeon Forge High School Tigers due to COVID-19 precautions.

The Tigers dominated time of possession and left with a 4-0 victory over a depleted Redskins roster.

“We have a small squad, and then we got hit with three kids in quarantine,” Espinoza said. “We faced Pigeon Forge, and that was just a different kind of soccer that was a little bit more physical. Having smaller kids, it kind of hurt us a little bit. Even though we had the adversity, we still tried to do what’s being coached and what we’re working on every day. I think we’re heading in the right direction, and we’ve got the three wins that we’ve needed.”

This marks the team’s first time dealing with COVID-19 contact tracing, and while Espinoza hopes it will be the last, he admits “we’re probably not going to avoid that.”

The coaching staff is pleased with how the team is coming together at the right time.

“I think those losses actually helped us with those wins because we got to figure out where to put these players,” Feezell said. “You learn from your losses, and, in this case, we really did. We figured out that all of these players, they have a lot of potential. We have so many good players, but we’re just trying to find out where to put them. Experience right now, we’re getting a lot of younger kids with a lot of experience. They’re really building up and showing off and it’s just really good, and I think that’s helping us big time with those three games.”

Loudon played the final district match of the regular season Tuesday after News-Herald presstime against the Scott High School Highlanders. A win would give the Redskins a No. 1 seed in the District 5-2A tournament.

The next match will be 6 p.m. Thursday at home against a powerful Knoxville Catholic High School squad.

“I think right now that every game moving forward, it’s going to be critical to the team mentality,” Espinoza said. “We’re expected to win the district and the kids know that. It’s in their head to go out there and fight. Thursday we go out and play Catholic, and I am so looking forward to that game. Catholic has a really good program, and those are the teams that we schedule for us to get better. We’ll try some stuff against Catholic, and it’s all about getting the experience. I think these young kids are enjoying getting this experience.”

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