With all due respect to their opponents, both teams have plans on making some statewide noise — a necessary attitude for success in the TSSAA Spring Fling, which kicks off in earnest today.
“I believe — I’m almost afraid to say it out loud — we have the best team,” said Science Hill soccer coach Brandon Kind. “I say that with the utmost respect for other teams, and I don’t want to say too much. I don’t want it to sound arrogant. But from team preparation and the schedule we played, we’ve done the most to prepare in my opinion.
“We have confidence in our ability, and I tell the guys confidence is not arrogance when you’ve worked your tail off every day to earn that confidence.”
Kind’s team will open play tonight at 8:30 (EDT) against Cookeville in a Class AAA state quarterfinal contest at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex.
As for University High, head coach Keith Jeffers said his team is focused on doing more than just showing up.
“For some of these girls, it’s their third year in a row,” said Jeffers. “Everybody we’re playing is going to be good, but we’re a good team. And I think we are that much better where we can compete with the best teams in Class A now. There’s no doubt in my mind we are a whole lot better than we were two years ago. I’m not saying we will win it, but we are definitely capable of winning against anybody we play.”
The Lady Buccaneers face perennial power Forrest today at 5 p.m. at McKnight Field No. 3.
Cookeville (17-3-1) vs. Science Hill (20-0-1) — The Cavaliers have a nine-game winning streak coming into this match, but only three of those came against teams with winning records.
Science Hill is perfect against Tennessee opponents, with its lone tie coming against Roanoke (Va.) Patrick Henry. The Hilltoppers have outscored their opponents 97-12 on the season, but have a somewhat disturbing trend of giving up four late-game goals in their last three games.
Science Hill has posted 12 shutouts for the season. Cookeville has outscored its opponents 60-20 with five shutouts.
On Science Hill’s side of the bracket is unbeaten and top-ranked Franklin, and Kind hopes his team gets a shot at the Rebels.
“I feel like it would be a great match,” he said. “But we cannot look past Cookeville for an instant, and our guys know that.”
Science Hill defeated Cookeville 4-1 in the 2011 state quarterfinals.
“I haven’t seen them this year, but I know a little about them,” said Kind. “I know their style, and I know they will bring a lot of fans because they are so close to the facility. They are a scrappy team. We’re going to have to play well, and be hungry and aggressive.”
Scoring early would be a big boost, said Kind.
“We need to capitalize on early opportunities,” he said. “That’s been the theme: finish, finish, finish — early and often. We don’t want to leave any team lingering around.”
University High (34-8) vs. Forrest (30-7) — It’s not an easy start for the Lady Bucs as they face a former Class A state champion.
The Lady Rockets have been to the state tournament seven times in the last eight years, and won the 2008 title. They were state runner-up in 2002, 2007 and 2009, but were two and done last year.
Forrest has won eight games in a row this season, and 19 of its last 21.
UH, which broke through with a state tournament win last year — sandwiched between a pair of one-run losses — has won six games in a row after taking four of its eight losses in the Tiny Day Classic.
“We’ve done what we needed to do to get there,” said Jeffers. “I told the girls it comes down to who is a little better than the other person that day. I told them before the sectional game, if we score three or four runs we’ve got a good shot at beating anybody we play.”
Quick notes about other Spring Fling happenings:
— Tennessee High’s tennis team will play a state quarterfinal match against Murfreesboro Siegel at Old Fort Park, beginning today at 4 p.m. Germantown and Brentwood are on the other side of the bracket.
— Community, North Greene’s first-round opponent in Class A baseball, is located in Unionville, about 27 miles southwest of Murfreesboro. The Vikings (23-15) had not even gotten out of their district since 1999, but won seven of eight postseason games to reach The Boro.
— Dobyns-Bennett’s 33 wins in baseball this year is the third most in school history (behind 39 wins in 1999 and 35 wins in 2001), topping the 32 victories in 1996. In an odd coincidence, the Indians’ first-round opponent today will be the team that allowed D-B’s 32nd win in 1996, and then twice denied the Indians a 33rd victory — Germantown Houston, which lost to D-B in the winners’ bracket final before topping the Indians twice in the championship round.
Houston is making its first state tournament appearance since 2010. D-B was two and done last year, scoring just two runs.
— Greeneville and its first-round opponent in Class AA softball, Dyersburg, are both making their first-ever appearance in the state tournament. And both are former Class AAA schools enjoying the Class AA spotlight.
— Greeneville’s first-round opponent in Class A-AA soccer, Jackson Madison Academic Magnet, is making its first state tournament appearance since 2010 while the Greene Devils are here for the fourth straight year — and looking for their first win.
Madison’s last trip was the last of three straight quarterfinal appearances for the school, which was founded in 2003.
— Several area athletes earned spots in the pentathlon and decathlon events, which began Monday and concludes today.
In Class AAA, Dobyns-Bennett’s Jeremiah Sokol is in the decathlon while Andriana Watkins (D-B) and Samantha Gudger (Tennessee High) made it in the pentathlon.
In Class A-AA, Greeneville had three decathlon qualifiers: Anton Almqvist, Quann Wilson, and Jay Storm. West Greene’s Isaac Carson also made it.
In the pentathlon, West Greene’s Cheyenne Upton and Elizabethton’s Katie May earned spots.
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