Science Hill may be a stroke or two off Dobyns-Bennett’s pace this season, but Hilltoppers’ head coach Kevin Vannoy said he likes something he has seen from his boys’ golf team this year.
“Any time we’ve been challenged, the kids have kind of thrived on the challenge,” said Vannoy, whose team battled Tennessee High on Tuesday in Bristol. “They haven’t backed down, and that’s good. It shows confidence.
“I think they accept the tradition of Science Hill golf. When the pressure is on, they’ve raised their game. That’s a good sign for us.”
On the girls’ side, Vannoy said the program could experience a first with Virginia Tech commitment Allison Woodward leading the way.
“We have high hopes,” said Vannoy. “I don’t know if the girls have ever made it to the state as a team, but we feel like we’ve got a good shot if we play well at the region.”
Both the boys and girls teams are closing in on postseason mode as the Big Seven Conference tournament will take place Monday at Buffalo Valley Golf Course. The District 1-AAA event is scheduled for Sept. 23 at Bristol Country Club, and the region follows on Sept. 30 at Morristown Country Club.
At each of those stops, the Hilltoppers’ boys would likely face a battle against the Indians for any titles.
“They didn’t graduate anybody from last year, and their first three are capable of going below par,” said Vannoy, whose team lost by six and four strokes, respectively, to the Indians this season. “Obviously D-B is good. They are probably the league favorite and maybe the region favorite. Our goal is to qualify for the region and see where the cards lay.”
The Hilltoppers graduated some key players, but state-tournament-experienced seniors Drew Poland and Peter Chang return.
“They have played well up to this point,” said Vannoy. “But I don’t think they’ve hit their golf stride. Going into the tournament, that’s probably good for us because we’ve talked about peaking at the right time.
“They’ve both got tremendous golf games. They both analyze the course well, and they’re helpful to the younger guys.”
Poland and Chang know how to handle the pressure of playing in matches, said Vannoy.
“It’s a little different atmosphere,” he said. “If you hit a bad shot, it affects your score but also affects four other guys.”
Also in the mix for the Hilltoppers this season have been a pair of freshmen, Jack Rhea and Garrett Whitfield. Sophomore Chris Deal and senior Jake Aaroen have also contributed.
“We’re just trying to get as many matches in to get that experience level up,” said Vannoy.
As for the girls, Woodward is good at more than just hitting the golf ball.
“It’s the way she manages everything from practice time to the course,” said Vannoy. “She’s a sweet kid, and shares her game with the younger kids. She’s patient, and that helps tremendously.”
Vannoy said Woodward has helped the confidence of No. 2 player, junior Erica Quin (pronounced “chin”).
“Erica is rock solid, and she’s improving her game,” said Vannoy.
Also helping on the girls’ side are freshman Addison Baggarly and senior Stephanie Poget.
Like the boys, the girls will have to fight off D-B in the district. Jefferson County has traditionally been a threat at the regional level.