Phil Newport will return to a familiar role this August, coaching the Oneida High School girls soccer team.
Newport has been named the program’s head coach, Oneida Special School District Director of Schools Dr. Jeanny Hatfield confirmed Friday. Currently, Newport is an assistant coach for the boys high school team, where he coaches defense for head coach Derek Keeton. Last fall, he helped guide the Lady Indians to an historic postseason as an assistant coach, as Oneida won both the District 3-A and Region 2-A championships, advancing to the Class A sectionals before being eliminated.
Newport replaces Grant Swain as the program’s head coach. Assisting him will be Amanda Terry and Adam Morrow.
Fresh off the success of last season, Newport said his hope is that the Lady Indians program will continue to build.
“Last year’s success was no secret formula,” Newport said. “We had some talent and that talent worked hard. I don’t think the cupboard is bare and there are some really good teams in the area — like Scott, Cumberland Gap and Rockwood — that will challenge us.”
Preparations for the fall season are already underway. Newport said 31 players have signed up.
“I fully expect to find 11 good players in this bunch,” he said. “I will never tell anyone that we will win all our games, but we are sure going to try.”
The playing field for Oneida was leveled two years ago when the Tennessee Secondary School Athletics Association restructured its classification, shifting private schools to Division II. Prior to that, the Lady Indians had been forced to compete annually with Knoxville juggernauts like Knox Catholic and Christian Academy of Knoxville. In their first season without the private schools in the same district, the Lady Indians won the district and region titles.
“I think the playing field in soccer is more level than it has ever been,” Newport said. “Our district has won nine state titles, and they were all taken by private schools. I like the opportunity to compete with schools that have the same restrictions with rules. There are always going to be differences in school size but the ability to bring specific people into your program was unfair.”
Oneida’s 2017 season ended with a 3-2 loss to Chuckey-Doak in the Class A sectional, after a thrilling 2-1 win over Polk County in the Region 2-A championship game at Jane Terry Hoffman Field.
The 2018 season will begin in mid August.