Even though the final result left the Lady Indians wanting.
After battling to a 2-2 tie through regulation and 30 extra minutes of soccer, the Lady Hilltoppers won 4-2 on penalty kicks, with Riley Cox striking home the decisive kick.
“This is what the district final, this is what D-B and Science Hill is supposed to be about,” Lady Indians coach Blake Rutheford said.
It was also about Science Hill (15-3-2) earning the right to host its Region 1-AAA semifinal, which will be played on Tuesday against Morristown West. D-B (11-8-0) hits the road for Knoxville to face perennial state power Bearden.
Science Hill scored two goals in the first 18 minutes and, after back-to-back 3-0 shutouts of the Tribe in the regular season, that looked to be enough. Instead, D-B battled back with two tallies of its own after intermission to force overtime. Two scoreless 10-minute halves, followed by a brace of sudden-death “golden goal” five-minute periods.
“One mistake, one ball over the top, one foul, you’re in trouble. … We got in trouble by making mistakes,” Lady Hilltoppers coach David Strickland said. “But getting ourselves back composed again — as the overtime went we got more and more and more of the ball. We kept creating more, because that’s where we’re better. This is a thinking game. Not just a kicking game. I think that’s where we came through in the end.”
Little went right for D-B early. Just past the two-minute mark, Science Hill got on the board when Cydney Kinkead misplayed a shot by Paige Carlsen; it bounced off Kinkead's fingertips and back into the goal.
“We can’t have that kind of start,” Rutherford said.
Sydney Jordan, who was named district tournament MVP, found the net in the 18th on a second-chance shot after another ’Topper’s initial offering was repelled.
D-B made a few changes after halftime, most notably bringing up Jazlyn Stokely to the midfield and sending McKenzie Guest closer to the point of attack. It worked; Guest scored in the 43rd minute, flicking it in off a fine feed from Emilee Lane to give the Indians their first goal all season against Science Hill.
“The first two times we played them it was a resounding defeat. We did some positive things. We got some traction. We looked like we were ready to go,” Rutherford said.
Meanwhile, Kinkead made some fantastic second-half saves to keep the Lady Indians in it— and was rewarded for her efforts when Science Hill committed a foul inside the box in the 71st minute, prefacing a penalty kick goal by Guest at the 72-minute mark.
Kinkead and counterpart Tess Mrozek continued to make big saves through the 20 additional minutes, setting the stage for penalty kicks.
Rutherford praised Kinkead’s performance after the early gaffe, noting “the way she showed the maturity to come back. That was a sucker punch, and it was a punch to the gut for sure. My hat’s off to her for the response. … I told her, her second half that she just played was one of her best halves that she’s ever played.”
Mrozek, Jordan, Gracie Duncan and Cox all scored penalty kicks for the ’Toppers. Guest and Claire Chapman made their penalty kicks for the Tribe.
Both teams could use a few days of rest before postseason play resumes. Science Hill’s depth was so ravaged by injuries that Strickland basically stuck with the same lineup for all 110-plus minutes. D-B, meanwhile, is dealing with both physical and, potentially, emotional damage following a gut-wrenching defeat.
“We can maybe mourn on our loss for the 20, 30 minutes it takes to get back to the facility. But then we’ve got to get ready,” Rutherford said.
Especially with the win-or-go-home region semifinals on the horizon.