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Lady 'Toppers to play Maryville in state opener

Jeff Birchfield • Nov 5, 2019 at 11:00 AM

If there is no substitute for experience, then Science Hill should be in good shape heading into the Class AAA girls soccer tournament at Murfreesboro.

Featuring 10 seniors on the roster, the Lady ’Toppers (19-3-1) will play Maryville (17-3-3) in the quarterfinal round Wednesday 2:30 p.m. Eastern at the Richard Siegel Soccer Complex. The tournament was delayed one week for field conditions after Middle Tennessee suffered heavy rains.

The Lady ’Toppers enter with a 12-game winning streak, not having lost since August.

“We’re very senior-heavy,” Science Hill coach David Strickland said. “I say to these girls, ‘You are one of the top teams in the state and you should fear no one. You take your game and play.’ We’ve seen that with these girls, getting out there playing aggressively to get the ball and intelligently when we get it.”

Three seniors — Tori Sparks, Allie Torbett and Teagan Kersey — and junior Sarah Luna form the starting back line for the ‘Toppers. Sarah’s sister, Julia, plays in the midfield with Lina Powell and Savannah Fields.

Up top, senior Sydney Jordan leads Science Hill with 16 goals this season, but freshman sensation Megan Burleson is next on the list with 14 goals. All total, 14 different players have scored for the deeply talented team that includes senior forwards Paige Carlsen and Ariana Rodriguez and senior midfielder Brenna Weber.

“Sydney and Megan have put a lot of goals in, but the scoring has been all around,” Strickland said. “This whole group is one year older and they’re sharper and more mature. You’re seeing better things come out of them from their years of work. It has created those scoring opportunities.”

The younger players have contributed heavily as well. Sophomores Clair Roundtree and Parker Fleenor are among the offensive leaders, while Sophia Youngman has also been aggressive at forward.

The goalkeepers have been sophomore Miaka Miller and freshman Madelyn Horne. There are four from the Luna family on the team, including sophomore Meggie and freshman Ellie — who scored the game-winning goal in a 2-1 sectional win over Powell.

“We created multiple opportunities against Powell and I was glad the way our team responded after getting scored on,” Strickland said. “Ellie on Saturday night was one of the best players in the park. She had a fantastic night. Her spirit and willingness to win balls, to do the extra things, she added the spark we needed. These girls are finding out the harder you work, the luckier you get and it led to her getting that goal.”

Others who have contributed throughout the season are Katie Wilson, Jada Baker, Natalie Antonelli and Isabella Johnson.

MATCHING UP WITH MARYVILLE

The Lady Rebels have won eight of their last nine, losing 1-0 to Hardin Valley in District 1-AAA championship.

Both teams have wins over common opponents — Greeneville, Bearden and Powell. Science Hill also has a win over Chattanooga Baylor, which played Maryville to a 3-3 tie. Maryville, which lost to Houston in the 2018 state championship match, lost 10 seniors from that team.

Strickland is familiar with Lady Rebels coach Steve Feather and how his team plays.

“His style of play is a very attacking game,” Strickland said. “He likes to play from inside-out back to inside. He’s a risk taker in the game and I understand that style.”

Maryville has shown quality depth, returning nine players from the state runner-up team. Freshman Kayla Barr scored two goals and Reyna Coston added another in the Lady Rebels’ 3-0 win over Powell in the Region 2-AAA championship. Allie Townsend and Madison Harp scored earlier in a win over Bearden, while Grayson Patterson has been in goal.

Other defensive standouts have been Audrey Lovin and Katherine Morris.

“It will be a good matchup,” Strickland said. “I like our chances, but we have to show up and play the full 80 minutes. There will be special moments in that game and in those special moments, we have to make sure we capitalize on them.”

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