KINGSPORT — Now that Sullivan South and Dobyns-Bennett are in separate conferences, Thursday night’s girls soccer match at Indian Highland Park would be categorized as a “friendly.”
More or less.
The Lady Rebels’ defensive grit and determination held off the Tribe’s talent and depth until three late goals sealed a 4-0 victory for the homestanding Lady Indians.
Emily Doud scored D-B’s final goal in the 80th minute after the referee delivered a yellow card to South’s Holley Kegley — the third of the match.
“I was a little unhappy at the end. I thought the referee got the wrong color. Our girl was going straight to goal and I thought it was a goal-scoring opportunity,” said Lady Indians coach Blake Rutherford.
“He said he thought it was yellow. I thought it was red. But four-nil keeping a shutout against one of your rivals at home — I’ll take it.”
Moments earlier Doud picked up a yellow card of her own. Dobyns-Bennett’s Maggie Burkett — who scored two goals — got one midway through the second half.
The nature of the rivalry, and the teams involved, elicited aggressive, physical play both ways.
“It’s always that way against South. We’re both big. We’re both fast. We both want it,” said Burkett.
South dropped to District 1-AA this year. Dobyns-Bennett remains in District 1-AAA. But they’re still cross-town rivals.
“It’s always going to be a physical game. It always is, conference or not,” the hard-nosed midfielder added.
South goalkeeper Ashley Luster and her defensive subalterns proved pretty hard-nosed in their own rights. Luster especially, who had 11 saves as the Lady Indians bombarded her with 15 shots on goal out of 32 shots.
Burkett didn’t initiate scoring for the Tribe until the 40th minute, caroming a net-bulging shot off the crossbar in the center of the frame.
“It took about 20 shots to get one in, finally,” Burkett said, laughing. “My team kept feeding me the ball. We were creating the chances, opening up the space. We practiced a lot, and I finally kept the ball down and sunk it.”
Dobyns-Bennett virtually monopolized possession during the first half. It only had a 1-0 lead at intermission to show for it.
“I was happy with the way we possessed the ball in transition to the attack. I felt it got a little rough. We kind of started misfiring a little bit,” Rutherford said.
“I told them coming out at halftime the possession and shots were fine. It was a dominating performance. But we needed to be a little cleaner and a little more precise when we get our shootin’ boots on,” he said.
Dobyns-Bennett kept the pressure on in the second half, finally getting the 2-0 lead when striker Shannon Stroud closed in to drive the ball past Luster.
“I had so many breakaways and I could not finish any of them because I was so focused on the goalie stopping my balls,” Stroud said.
Her goal seemed to do the trick. In the 76th minute she delivered a cross to Burkett, who finished the attack for the 3-0 advantage. Doud’s penalty kick — the first goal of her varsity career — was not far behind it.
Sullivan South coach Keith Parker, who subbed very little during the match, was proud of his defensive effort and proud of his goalie.
“I thought she played well. She’s come a long way for us since last year,” said Parker, whose squad should be highly competitive in District 1-AA this season.
“We were back on our heels the whole match, but I don’t think the score showed it. We gave up a few cheap goals we shouldn’t have given up, but they also should have scored more goals than they did.
“The girls fought hard. We played them as hard as we could.”