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Lady 'Toppers edge Panthers to earn state berth

Pat Kenney • Oct 26, 2019 at 10:40 PM

JOHNSON CITY — The Lady Hilltoppers are state bound and on top of the world.

Science Hill forged two first-half goals and made them stand up in an impressive 2-1 win over Powell in Saturday’s TSSAA Class AAA sectional soccer match at Kermit Tipton Stadium.

“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Lady 'Toppers senior defender Tori Sparks. “All the hard work we’ve put in is paying off. This is so overwhelming.”

This marks the second time this group of Science Hill seniors has qualified for the state tournament, which begins Wednesday.

“It’s crazy,” said Science Hill senior midfielder Savannah Fields. “There are so many emotions that come out when you realize that you’re going to state.”

The Lady Hilltoppers (19-3-1) opened the scoring in the 13th minute when Fields sent a ball to Megan Burleson, who blasted a shot past Powell goalkeeper Emaleigh Marshburn.

Just 11 minutes later, the Lady Panthers (13-6-1) countered with a goal from Autumn Daniels.

With their state hopes on the line, the Lady 'Toppers responded. Freshman midfielder Ellie Luna pounced on a loose ball in front of the Powell goal and sent a shot deep into the net to give Science Hill a 2-1 advantage with six minutes left in the half.

The second half was a defensive struggle. The Lady 'Toppers held the Lady Panthers without a shot over the final 40 minutes. The Science Hill forwards, meanwhile, produced five shots on goal.

Marshburn kept Powell in the match with three magnificent second-half saves, but her teammates could not capitalize.

“We had some opportunities in the second half but could not convert,” said Powell coach Victoria Weinhandl. “They were just a hair quicker to the ball than we were."

Science Hill did withstand a stretch during the second half when play became a little ragged.

“We had to regain our composure,” Sparks said. “On defense, we focused on getting the ball on the ground and finding feet. We felt the pressure and we knew we had to close things down.”

“Powell did a great job disrupting us in the second half,” said Science Hill coach David Strickland. “Their goalkeeper did a super job. But I thought that mentally we had the edge and were able to get beyond the moment.

“It wasn’t the prettiest game we’ve played, but it was enough to allow us to come out on top."

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