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Science Hill golfers enter season with great expectations; D-B eager to challenge

Douglas Fritz • Jul 16, 2018 at 8:39 PM

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

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.

The start of golf season is a time of excitement for Science Hill, which is among the teams expected to make a run at the TSSAA Large Division 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 Hilltoppers 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.

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,” Vannoy said. “That allows the No. 5 and No. 6 guys to see what it’s like to be under pressure.”

With the Large Division state tournament having the earliest date, the district event is scheduled for Sept. 10 at Johnson City Country Club. The region is Sept. 17 at Blackthorn and the state tournament is Sept. 25-26 at WillowBrook Golf Club in Manchester.

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

Skeen, a junior who is already committed to Middle Tennessee State, is expected to be at the head of the pack. He shot a 69 last year at The Country Club of Morristown to help Science Hill earn the Region 1 championship and posted a top-20 finish at state.

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

Vannoy called Anderson “a senior leader.

“He has DI schools after him, too,” the coach said. “He’s a sharp kid academically.”

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

Seniors Gavin Nickels and Hendrix Price are expected to contribute along with juniors Carter Counts and Tarun Hoskere, whom Vannoy said has been the most improved player from last year.

Also in the mix are juniors Jacob Oakley and Ross Boehling.

DOBYNS-BENNETT

Zac Fletcher, Spencer Correll, Taylor Kilgore

Key matches

• Aug. 6 — Mike Mills Invitational at Morristown

• Aug. 30 — Science Hill/Sullivan South at Ridgefields

Dobyns-Bennett was extraordinarily young last season when six freshmen occupied nine roster spots. Still, the Indians were able to reach the region tournament.

“We were babies,” said D-B coach Michael Holt. “But they matured quickly.”

Out front this season is Fletcher, a sophomore.

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

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

“Spencer is a great young man and a great golfer,” Holt noted. “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.

D-B 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.

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.”

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 has a trio of new coaches and Volunteer didn’t have to look too far to find its baseball coach.

At South, Luci Creech is taking over the girls soccer program, Adam McElroy is the new cross country coach and John Wooten is taking over for athletic director Anthony Richardson as the golf coach.

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

Volunteer turned over its baseball program 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 Virginia-Wise and Tanner Doran said he will continue his playing career at Cleveland State.

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