Tribe junior McKenzie Guest scored a brace on Tuesday, including the game-winning penalty kick in the 64th minute, and the Lady Indians bested Tennessee High by a 3-2 margin in the semifinals of the District 1-AAA soccer tournament.
“I knew the pressure was on and penalty kicks already kind of scare me a little bit,” Guest said. “It’s a lot of pressure, but the goalie just chose wrong. It worked out to my advantage, I guess.”
D-B (11-7) locked up a regional berth and advanced to face Science Hill in Thursday’s district finals, also to be played in Bristol. The Lady Hilltoppers, the district regular-season champions and top seed for the tournament, breezed through the semifinals with a 9-0 mercy rule-shortened rout of Daniel Boone.
D-B was the home team in name only on Tuesday, venturing into the unfriendly confines of the Stone Castle. The Lady Indians quickly made themselves at home, knocking in their first goal just 47 seconds into the match — courtesy of Guest.
“That shows you what type of player Kenzie is. She can change a ballgame just on her head. She’s phenomenal,” Lady Indians coach Blake Rutherford said. “Typically when she steps out on the field, she’s the best player on the field. She obviously showcased tonight and got a brace tonight.”
The quick strike ratcheted up the pressure for THS (6-9-1) right away.
“We were kind of adjusting with some new personnel in different spots,” said Lady Vikings coach Kevin Mooney, whose squad lost all three matchups with D-B this season by the score of 3-2. “They pounced. We were being a little bit passive and they were being aggressive.”
D-B poured on the aggression, striking again in the 16th minute when Kaitlyn Adams tallied off the assist by Callie Stidham.
Momentum turned in the second half when Tennessee High erased the deficit in a three-minute span. Taylor Harr initiated scoring for the Lady Vikes in the 52nd minute, drilling a rebound shot after an offering by teammate Emma Arnold left D-B keeper Cydney Kinkead sprawled on the turf. Two minutes later, Arnold delivered the goods, rifling a shot into the top left corner of the net.
“We shot ourselves in the foot both goals. Both times we made some mistakes we normally don’t make,” Rutherford observed.
The deadlock held until the 64th, when a Tennessee High player was whistled for committing a hand-ball violation inside the box.
With a penalty kick coming, Rutherford said he did not hesitate in choosing Guest to take the shot.
“Call to the bullpen — 2 right away,” Rutherford said, referring to Guest’s jersey number. “If 2’s on the field and 2’s available and doesn’t have a bone sticking out of her leg, she’s going to take that penalty.”
Tennessee High kept fighting for that equalizer in the final 15 minutes but the penalty kick proved insurmountable.
“After they fought so hard to get back into the game, it definitely changed the impact for the rest of the game,” Mooney said.
The win moved D-B into regional play for the first time since 2014, when the team made its second consecutive trip to the state tournament. That means advancing also is a first for players like Guest, a junior.
“Now we’ve got to move on to our good friends from Johnson City,” Rutherford said.
Thursday’s district final kicks off at 6 p.m.