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Lady Rebels race into District 1-AA semifinals

By STEVE WILMOTH, TriCitiesSports.com • Oct 9, 2017 at 9:57 PM

KINGSPORT — Sullivan South needed little more than a half to dispatch Unicoi County in the first round of District 1-AA soccer tournament Monday evening on the Lady Rebels’ pitch.

A red-hot start propelled South to a seven-goal advantage at intermission and two more quick tallies in the second 40 gave the Lady Rebels the 9-0 result.

View the photo gallery from the match

The decision sent the third-seeded Lady Rebels (9-7) into Tuesday night’s semifinal against No. 2 Sullivan Central. The winner advances to Thursday’s district championship and earns a spot in next week’s Region 1-AA tournament.

South lost 3-2 at Unicoi County three weeks ago, but the rekindled Lady Rebels quickly overwhelmed the Lady Blue Devils on Monday.

“We were pretty embarrassed the last time we played them. We got down a goal and lost our composure,” said South coach Keith Parker. “But credit to Unicoi County, they’ve improved a lot this season.

South peppered the Unicoi County keeper early and often but didn’t break through until the 13th minute when Abby Clark collected a forward and made a run through the defense.

The deluge was on.

“Our goal today was to have a lot of firepower, play hard and see if we could right the wrong from last game,” Parker said.

Eight minutes later, a corner from Rachel Phillips was deflected out front to Julianna Henderson, who lofted the Lady Rebels’ second goal over the Unicoi keeper.

In the 25th, Mattie Topping banged home a Rachel Phillips forward to expand South’s lead to 3-0. Topping then outran the Unicoi keeper to a free ball out front and hit an open net, pushing the margin 4-0.

South blew things wide open late in the half with three goals in a two-minute span, one each by Phillips, Clark and Topping.

“With the start of the tournament, we had a lot more fire in us,” Topping noted. “We just got lazy in their last meeting with us. It was their Senior Night and they came through and beat us.”

Unicoi County didn’t produce a shot on goal until two minutes before the first half when the Lady Blue Devils unleashed a barrage against South keeper Katerina Johnson, who withstood it all to preserve her clean sheet.

South missed several opportunities to invoke the mercy rule early in the second half. Phillips eventually struck again in the 48th minute and two minutes intercepted a keeper feed and won a one-on-one matchup to end the contest.

“Once we got up big, we were trying to end the game so we would be fresh for Sullivan Central,” noted Parker, whose squad lost twice this season to Lady Cougars this season.

“I would like to think we are playing our best soccer right now,” he added. “Our strikers are moving very well and we are getting solid play all over the field. We are looking forward to having another opportunity against them.”

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