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Hilltoppers burning up the links

Douglas Fritz • Aug 29, 2018 at 6:12 PM

Science Hill’s golf team has been on a roll lately.

The Hilltoppers won the conference tournament last week before traveling to Crossville and finishing second out of eight teams in an elite invitational tournament. On Monday, the Hilltoppers won a tournament in Hendersonville.

“We played 72 holes over a five-day period at a high level,” said head coach Kevin Vannoy.

Science Hill has three tournament titles in the bag, and the only team the Hilltoppers have finished behind in any match this season is Memphis Briarcrest, a Division II school that won the Crossville event.

It is beginning to look like a special season for Science Hill.

“I think last year was a growing year for our kids,” said Vannoy. “It taught us some valuable lessons for preparing for this season. I felt like last year we were trying to find our identity as a team, and we had to grow into our new identity. This year, I feel they are confident in who they are on the course and that has allowed them to accept the challenge of taking on a demanding schedule.”

Science Hill has a rivalry match Thursday at Dobyns-Bennett. They have more league matches the following week, and then the district tournament arrives on Sept. 10 at the Johnson City Country Club.

The region event is Sept. 17, and the state tournament is Sept. 25-26.

THE LEADERS

As expected, Jackson Skeen has been at the forefront. And while his consistency has made the Hilltoppers a tough opponent, Sean Anderson, Gavin Nickels, Tarun Hoskere and Carter Counts have made their strokes count as well.

“I am really proud of them,” said Vannoy. “Each one of them has played well and helped the team. All of them have the capability to shoot even par, and our success this year has been our depth. When someone has scored above their average, someone else has picked their game up to help the team out in scoring.”

POSTSEASON VISION

Vannoy said the recent stretch was expected to be an important indicator of postseason potential. And the success highlighted some high hopes.

“Playing four out of five days with exceptional teams will be a valuable learning experience for us going into the district and region,” said Vannoy. “I was really proud of the way we played and competed over the weekend, but we have to stay focused going into the postseason.”

The first goal is to reach the region tournament. Then it takes a team win at the region level to get to the state. Science Hill has been successful at the state level in years past, with championships in 1959, 2001 and 2003. The Hilltoppers also placed runner-up in 1971, 1973, 1982, 1996, 1997, 2000, 2006 and 2016.

Vannoy said the talent is in house to reach the state and make a little noise. He said the team simply has to conquer the mental aspects.

“Golf is a mental game that takes focus,” said Vannoy. “When we have been focused, we have played well. But there are tough teams in our conference and region that have the same goal of getting to the state.”

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