ALCOA, Tenn. (WATE) — For spring sports across the state this year was a tough one, as coronavirus concerns stripped away their seasons.
In mid-March, the Alcoa boys soccer season was postponed and in April the TSAA officially called off the spring sports season due to COVID-19. Alcoa senior Cade Winchester remembers hearing the disappointment he felt when he received the season-ending news.
“I was super disappointed to find out my senior season, the one that was supposed to be one of the final ones to wrap everything up, was going to be taken away from me,” Cade said.
William Carter echoes that same feeling recalling being saddened and in disbelief that he would not be able to play out his senior season.
But they will get another chance to take the field.
The Tornadoes will be in competing in the Tennessee High School Soccer Coaches Association State Championship. The tournament will be held at the Rocky Top Sports World in Gatlinburg, with Division I teams, including Alcoa, competing from July 9-11, and Division II teams July 13-15.
THSSCA members organized the tournament and received approval from the TSSAA to hold the tournament as independent “club teams.”
Participating teams are divided into brackets with Class A, AA, and AAA. The tournament was open to teams across the state and when Gatlinburg-Pittman boys soccer coach Zach Schrandt contacted Shane Corley about the it, the Alcoa head coach jumped on the opportunity.
“We wanted an opportunity for them to end their season on the field instead of wondering what could have been,” said Corley.
The “second chance” tournament gives the team closure from this season and gives coach Corley an idea about next year with some of the younger players getting an opportunity to get touches in some games.
Winchester says he is excited for the opportunity to play in the tournament, as it will be that special moment that puts a bow on his high school career propelling him into the next level on a positive note.
“I get to wrap everything up and be with everyone that I love and care about and want to play with one last time,” said Winchester.
While Carter was slow to jump on board, after starting practices with his teammates he is thankful for the opportunity to compete in Maroon and White one last time.
“It was so weird the first day I couldn’t really believe we were back here together, but I’m so glad to be here,” said Carter.
It’s strange for the team to be preparing for a tournament this time of year as normally their seasons would be done and Corley’s focus would shift towards the girl’s team, but though it’s different Corley says they are all glad to be out there on the field.
As for tournament play, Corley says he thinks his guys have “played a lot of video games lately” as their fitness levels need some work but is confident they will be fine come July.
Alcoa is set to play the Merrol Hyde Magnet Hawks at 8 p.m. in their opening game on July 9.
The tournament will also look slightly different due to coronavirus concerns. Fans will be socially distanced, games will be staggered to help limit the potential of overlap from attending fans.
They are also taking precautions at practice. Before anyone takes the field, temperatures are checked. Each player brings their own water, the team is broken up into smaller groups when working on their skills and coaches try to keep the team as socially distanced as possible while scrimmaging.
While division winners will be awarded “some sort of cup or an award” says Corley, it’s the chance to play one last time that makes up for the way the team’s season ended.
“There weren’t any real words to describe it at the time,” Corley says as he reflects on when he had to break the news to his guys about cutting their season short, “but then when the opportunity [for this tournament] came about the light kind of comes back on. We can put this together and we can get the guys back one more time and really have some fun with it.”
Out of the 48 total teams, both public and private schools, competing in the THSSCA State Championship, other East Tennessee schools include Austin-East, South-Doyle, Knoxville Central, Knoxville West, Farragut, Bearden, Grace Christian Academy, and Knoxville Catholic.
At the end of the tournament, there will be a DI Class A, AA and AAA coaches association state champion and runner up, along with a DII A and DII AA state champion and runner-up.
Schrandt, who is helping organize the tournament, says they are proud to be the only state coaches association for spring high school soccer to host a state tournament on their own.
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