published Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

Ooltewah on the rise for AAA soccer region

Ooltewah soccer coach Rick Adolph realized at two separate points that his 2011 team wasn’t like it was in past years.

As a result, the Owls not only are still playing but playing to his satisfaction.

The Owls (9-5-1) will face Coffee County in this evening’s Region 3-AAA semfinals, with Ooltewah coming off the first district championship in what Adolph called “a long time.”

He pointed to losses against Franklin and McMinn County as a couple of turning points in the season.

“When we played Franklin, we were able to score a goal in the second half, and we also held them scoreless,” Adolph said. “We lost to McMinn 4-1 during the season, but that’s when we realized we had to improve at some certain areas.”

Adolph felt good about Callum Wishart’s forward play and the defense led by Sean McClain, but the midfield area was a weak spot when Thomas Adolph, the coach’s son, went down with a season-ending injury.

“We just needed a couple of players to get us organized,” Coach Adolph said. “Once we got that position taken care of, it made us stronger and more consistent with our play.”

The Cleveland Soccer Classic, which boasts some of the top programs in the state, didn’t help Ooltewah’s early-season record. A preseason playday also hurt the Owls, the coach said.

“We always end up with quite a few injured [after the playday],” he said. “We’ve had to bring up some younger players.

“When we play in the Cleveland tournament, we’ve lost games, but I felt differently about this year because we continued to compete. I feel pretty good about where we are right now. The guys are starting to catch on to what we want to do and they’re working hard.”

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/gh3sports.

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