With that pearl of wisdom in mind, Science Hill’s athletic teams have gone out and faced tough competition this fall in preparation for the postseason.
Whether it’s the volleyball team traveling to middle Tennessee for a weekend tournament, the cross country teams running in a premier meet in South Carolina, or the girls’ soccer team scheduling the likes of Hardin Valley, the Hilltoppers haven’t shied away from anyone.
“That’s one thing we want all of our teams to do,” said Science Hill athletic director Keith Turner. “You’ve got to be challenged.”
After guiding the Science Hill boys to the state title game in the spring, David Strickland has been busy taking the same style of play the boys use and installing it in the girls’ program.
A brutal early-season schedule seemed to pay dividends when the Lady Hilltoppers earned a 1-0 decision over Dobyns-Bennett last Tuesday night at Kermit Tipton Stadium. But the victory came at a steep price as Science Hill lost Hannah Torbett to a season-ending knee injury.
“It was a PCL and she’ll have to have surgery soon,” Turner said. “Hopefully she’ll recover from that and she has brighter days ahead. It’s sad for Hannah because she was really playing her best soccer and providing a lot of leadership, but that happens to a lot of teams.
“Somebody else is going to have to step up and they still have a chance to win the league. That’s the No. 1 goal right now.”
Winning the District 1-AAA title will be an uphill fight for the Lady ’Toppers, but they do have the upper hand after beating D-B. At 4-0, Science Hill is a game ahead of the Tribe and Tennessee High, who are both 3-1.
Dobyns-Bennett’s William Nottingham fired a sparkling round of 65 at the District 1-AAA golf tournament last Monday at the Country Club at Bristol, but Science Hill’s depth allowed the boys to win the team title.
The ’Toppers, who posted a team score of 298 to beat runner-up Tennessee High by 23 strokes, were led by Jack Rhea’s round of 71. Garrett Whitfield and Mason Williams each shot a 75 and Jacob Turner added a 77 to help Science Hill overwhelm the field with sheer consistency.
“It was great to see those scores all bunched up there. I know with our golfers, it was very important for them to win that conference championship,” Turner said, adding that a new challenge awaits Monday in the Region 1-AAA tournament at Patriot Hills in Jefferson City.
“They’ve just got to step it up,” he said. “They’ve got a good shot at making it the state tournament and making some noise.”
The Lady Hilltoppers got off to a bit of a slow start, but as the regular season hits the homestretch, they are in excellent position to make a push deep into the postseason.
With Ali Jenkins, Olivia Jenkins, Abby Higgins, Isabel Hawley and Mandy Stallard leading the way, Science Hill might be peaking at the right time.
“They started out probably not as well as they wanted to,” Turner said. “They started taking responsibility for how they play, and it’s been very noticeable. They’re right in the thick of it.”
After a key win over Dobyns-Bennett last Thursday night, Science Hill is now firmly entrenched in second place in the Big Seven Conference behind frontrunner Tennessee High. The Lady Vikings are a perfect 8-0 in the league while Science Hill is 7-1, three games ahead of David Crockett and Sullivan Central, who are tied at 4-4.
“Tennessee High is definitely the top of the league right now, but that doesn’t prevent you from getting to the region and having a shot,” Turner said. “Last year our girls had a shot at getting to the state tournament, and that’s our goal every year.”
After opening the season in style at the Eye Opener meet in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the boys and girls seem primed to have special seasons.
The boys, led by Alex Crigger and Noah Charles, won the meet in South Carolina while the girls, paced by Halle Hausman and Lydia Lee, finished third.
“We’ve got a lot of great runners on both sides,” Turner said. “They’re just a special bunch. They’re very close-knit, both the boys and the girls. It’s a unique sport. You can finish one spot ahead in a race and that could be the difference between your team winning or losing.
“They’re both highly ranked, and it’s just a matter of staying healthy and peaking at the right time.”