Tuscaloosa Academy soccer ready to chase a championship

Tuscaloosa Academy has proven to be a capable newcomer in its first season competing in the AHSAA level.

Since transitioning from the AISA to the AHSAA at the start of the school year, Tuscaloosa Academy has registered playoff wins in football, volleyball, girls basketball, baseball, girls golf and boys soccer.

This weekend the Knights can wrap up “Year One” with a “Blue Map”. Tuscaloosa Academy boys soccer will face St. Luke’s Episcopal on Friday morning in the semifinals of the Class 1A-3A State Soccer Tournament.

“We pretty much dominated the AISA,” senior Patton Turnipseed said. “Everyone kind of put us down (when we transitioned to the AHSAA). We are ready to step up and meet the challenge.”

Tuscaloosa Academy defeated two teams in the span of three days to reach the “Final Four.” It defeated St. James 3-2 in its playoff opener before its offense got on a roll in a 5-0 win over Prattville Christian Academy in Round 2.

The Knights admit that this week is a balancing act, trying to focus on practice as usual despite knowing it has the opportunity to win an AHSAA State Championship.

“It’s kind of tense but we are having fun trying to make the most of it, trying to enjoy it. Most teams are not out there practicing this week,” senior Yakut Eksin said. “We have had a lot of position changes. Our best player got hurt but we are still working hard and not giving up.”

Something that makes Tuscaloosa Academy’s run more impressive is that it’s doing it without arguably the best soccer player in the state. Forward Oliver Kneer suffered a season-ending injury last month. His teammates have filled the gaping hole by adapting to new roles.

“Ollie Kneer, the only Division I recruit in Class 2A soccer, getting hurt last month. We have had to switch some things up,” Brooks said. “Players had to take on new roles. They have really risen to the challenge. We’ve done well.”

“They’re like a well-oiled machine,” said head coach Morgan Wilson. “One of our best offensive players, Ollie Kneer, got injured and he’s out. So we replaced that ‘gear’ to make our machine keep moving well. You can kind of tell that we are missing him because we are not more high scoring. But still, they lost him and we put five goals on the last team that we played.”

The AHSAA State Soccer “Final Four” is played at John Hunt Park Champion Fields in Huntsville.

Tuscaloosa Academy (19-5-1) faces St. Luke’s Episcopal (20-5-2) on Friday morning in the semifinals of the Class 1A-3A State Tournament. The winner will advance to the state championship match on Saturday against the winner of Westminister School of Oak Mountain (11-9-2) and Tanner (20-5).

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