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Hilltoppers stand at head of the golf class

Douglas Fritz • Updated Jul 17, 2018 at 10:35 AM

Yes it is July, but believe it or not the 2018-19 high school sports season begins Monday.

Golf teams can officially start competing on that day, and it also marks the opening of practice for football, girls soccer, volleyball and cross country.

With the start of golf season, it’s a time of excitement for Science Hill as the Hilltoppers are among the teams expected to make a run at the Large Division state tournament in September.

“If everybody stays the course, I hope we can be contenders at the region level and make noise at the state tournament,” said Science Hill head coach Kevin Vannoy. “Everybody returns from last year’s team that finished fifth in the state, so expectations are pretty high.”

Local challenges to the Hilltoppers are expected from Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee High.

SCIENCE HILL

Top players: Jackson Skeen, Sean Anderson

Key matches

July 30 — Oak Ridge Cats/Dogs Invitational

Aug. 24-25 — Crossville Tournament of Champions

Aug. 27 — Hendersonville Bluegrass Invitational

Seeking birdies

Skeen is expected to be at the head of the pack as the junior has already committed to Middle Tennessee State University.

He shot a 69 last year at The Country Club of Morristown to help Science Hill earn the Region 1 championship. At the state, Skeen battled through a tough opening round of 79, but his second-day total of 71 allowed him to post a top-20 finish.

“I have always thought his mental game is his best attribute,” said Vannoy. “He has constantly shown the ability to make the big putt or finish.”

Anderson is also a big part of Science Hill’s plans this year.

“He’s a senior leader,” said Vannoy. “He has DI schools after him, too. He’s a sharp kid academically.”

Both Anderson and Skeen are playing Thursday at Blackthorn as they try to qualify for the Tennessee Amateur. Vannoy said they should be two of the best players in the conference.

Others in the mix

Seniors Gavin Nickels and Hendrix Price are expected to contribute along with juniors Tarun Hoskere and Carter Counts.

Vannoy said Hoskere has been the most improved player from last year. Also in the mix are juniors Jacob Oakley and Ross Boehling.

Short season

With the Large Division state tournament set for the earliest date, the district event is scheduled for Sept. 10 at the Johnson City Country Club. The region is slated for Sept. 17 at Blackthorn.

The state event will be held Sept. 25-26 at WillowBrook Golf Club in Manchester.

Jamboree

The District 1 jamboree is scheduled for Monday at Elizabethton Golf Course with a shotgun start at 8:30 a.m.

“We will keep scores, and unlike the regular season everybody’s score will count,” said Vannoy. “That allows the No. 5 and No. 6 guys to see what it’s like to be under pressure.”

DOBYNS-BENNETT

Top players: Zac Fletcher, Spencer Correll, Taylor Kilgore

Key matches

Aug. 6 — Mike Mills Invitational at Morristown

Aug. 30 — Science Hill/Sullivan South at Ridgefields

Cutting teeth

D-B was extraordinarily young last year with six freshmen occupying nine roster spots. Still, the Indians were able to reach the region tournament.

“We were babies,” said head coach Michael Holt. “But they matured quickly.”

Out front this season is Fletcher, who is a sophomore.

“He led the way last year from start to finish,” said Holt. “From the first match on, he played well.”

Correll, a senior, and Kilgore, a sophomore, are also expected to deliver small numbers this season.

“Spencer is a great young man and a great golfer,” said Holt. “I’ve seen him improve over the years. And Taylor is right there neck and neck with Spencer.”

Rounding out the returning mix are sophomore William Karst and senior Matthew Barnicki, who is one of the top students at D-B.

Holt said he has three other young players with a chance to make noise, and an incoming freshman, John Helphenstine, who could battle his way into the mix.

Not hiding

Holt said his team definitely wants to compete with Science Hill and Tennessee High.

“We absolutely hope so,” he said. “I would be lying if I said that wasn’t our goal.”

SCIENCE HILL GIRLS

Leading the way is senior Lillian Qin, who gives the Hilltoppers a chance to be among the area’s best.

Qin will be joined again this year by sophomore Grace Smith.

The chase will likely be between Science Hill, Tennessee High, D-B and Sullivan South.

“Everybody has a good A player, so it will depend on what the B player does,” said Vannoy.

DOBYNS-BENNETT GIRLS

Sophomore Isabella van der Biest leads the way and, like Qin, gives the Indians a true No. 1 threat.

“Isabella is always competitive and a threat to win any match,” said Lady Indians’ head coach Bill Darnell. “One of her goals is to be the best at what she does and help put the team in a position to be competitive with all opponents.”

van der Biest shot a 66 to win the region last year, and posted a 15th-place finish in the state tournament.

Also in the mix is senior Katerina Scott.

“She has been working very hard this summer to improve all aspects of her game,” said Darnell. “She is expecting to be very competitive and wants to make her senior year fun and memorable.”

Rounding out the lineup is sophomore Erin Calhoun.

“Erin is our darkhorse,” said Darnell. “She has a lot of talent and is very capable of sneaking in a low score and surprising the competition.”

Coaching hires

Sullivan South

The Rebels’ athletic program has a trio of new coaches.

Luci Creech was chosen to take over the girls soccer program while Adam McElroy is the new cross country coach.

As for golf, John Wooten will take over from athletic director Anthony Richardson.

“We are excited to have them on our staff,” said Richardson, who continues in his role as head baseball coach. “We look forward to them having a successful season.”

Volunteer

The Falcons have a new baseball coach. They turned their program over to Mike Castle, who served as the team’s pitching coach last season.

College signings

Dobyns-Bennett sent a pair of baseball players to the collegiate level last week.

Jeremiah Ball made his decision official with UVA-Wise while Tanner Doran will continue his playing career at Cleveland State.

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