These days, the Lady Hilltoppers are grabbing their share of the attention as they enter the 2014 season as defending Class AAA state champions.
“It has to be a great confidence boost,” said Hilltoppers’ head coach Kevin Vannoy. “To win a state championship, that’s an important step in any program. It’s one of those life-changing events.”
Both the boys and girls open their seasons this coming week at the Morristown Invitational. The boys play Monday while the girls compete Tuesday in an event that usually showcases the top teams from here to Knoxville.
For Science Hill’s girls, they will have to get by without the services of Allison Woodward, who took her talents to the Division I level at Virginia Tech. However, Addie Baggarly returns.
As a freshman, Baggarly actually outplayed Woodward in the state tournament. Her two-day total of 152 was good enough for a third-place finish individually, and Baggarly helped the Lady Hilltoppers record a team score of 309 — seven strokes better than Clarksville Rossview.
“Obviously Baggarly is one of the top girls golfers in East Tennessee,” said Vannoy. “She has experienced a championship season, and her mindset is to get back to the state again. Because once you get there, anything can happen.”
If the Lady Hilltoppers are going to make it that far, senior Erica Qin will need to step up her game.
“She will play an important role,” said Vannoy.
Three other golfers are battling for that third spot: freshman Jenny Simonsen, sophomore McKenzie Howell, and senior Stephanie Poget.
“Jenny had a good day at the jamboree, shooting an 84,” said Vannoy. “She has been quite a surprise.”
Vannoy said even the conference play will be challenging.
“Every girls team in the conference has a strong No. 1,” said Vannoy. “It will come down to the No. 2 and No. 3 girls in the district and region.”
As for the boys, it could be a rebuilding year. But at Science Hill that doesn’t mean the Hilltoppers won’t be in the title chase.
“I characterize this as a rebuilding year just because of the experience level,” said Vannoy. “And we do expect growing pains. These guys have to step up and rise to the tradition. They can. They are very good kids. All of them have a very good work ethic.
“Our goal is to peak for the district and region tournaments. Hands down, Dobyns-Bennett is the team to beat. But we want to put ourselves in position to compete with them at the end of the season.”
Leading the way are a pair of sophomores in Jack Rhea and Garrett Whitfield.
“Both of them had a great summers in the local events and qualifying for junior tournaments outside the area,” said Vannoy. “They are coming in already in golf shape.
“For us to be successful they have to become leaders on the course. They have to help the guys who don’t have as much experience.”
Rhea has been especially hot lately. Within a span of three days, Rhea won the junior championship at Blackthorn Club and the Tri-Cities Junior Amateur title.
Also in the mix to help are seniors Jackson Frizzell, Dylan Mangum and Jerry Wayne. Juniors battling for top spots are Jacob Turner, David Simonsen and Mason Williams.
“We’ve got a lot of question marks, but it should be a fun competition,” said Vannoy.
Vannoy will be assisted this season by David Whaley, who has been a part of the ultra-successful girls basketball program.
“He has been positive,” said Vannoy. “It’s good to have positive people in the program. A program can’t be run by one person.”