**Article by Gene Henley** Courtesy if The Times Free Press
CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Maybe the Ooltewah soccer team just needed the postseason to arrive.
After a three-win regular season filled with close losses and turmoil, the Owls are one win away from matching that total in a six-day postseason span.
They edged Walker Valley 1-0 Tuesday in a District 5-AAA semifinal on an early goal by defender Stephen Turman, who headed in a Laith Abood corner kick that was bouncing around the box.
The Owls defense did its part from that point on, holding off a potent Mustangs attack to advance to Thursday’s district championship game at Cleveland. The top-seeded Blue Raiders had a 1-0 win over East Hamilton in the other semifinal.
Walker Valley (12-2-1) finished with one more shot on goal than the Owls, including dangerous shots in the first half (Sam Gibson) and second (Samuel McDonald). In the second half, the Mustangs dominated possession to the point where Ooltewah coach Rick Adolph had to tinker with his lineup to slow the home team.
In the last 15 minutes of the match, Adolph played with one forward, four midfielders and five defenders to clog up the middle.
“We weren’t going to change anything in the second half, but because of the pressure we had to,” Adolph said. “Naturally, we stayed a little deeper because they forced our hand, so we had to close up gaps because they have a couple of trick players that can beat one guy.”
The Owls (5-6-5) were able to beat the Mustangs to a number of 50-50 balls, which made a difference. That was the most frustrating part of the loss for Walker Valley coach Tom Bayliss, whose Mustangs scored 63 goals this season, including 34 in their final four matches.
“The hump we didn’t get over was winning balls,” he said. “We had to get gritty, get tough. We needed guys to physically step up. We can play; we had the soccer players out there, but we didn’t have the physical — we shied away from stuff.
“You’re going to get hit, and it’s going to hurt the next day, but who cares, if we get a (penalty kick) or free kick out of it?”