BRISTOL, Va. — The boys’ soccer season has certainly tested the resolve of Science Hill.
A string of subpar performances, mixed with a fair share of controversy, left the Hilltoppers on the outside looking in as the District 1-AAA tournament began Monday.
Two days — and two wins — later, the Hill is nearly back on top.
The ’Toppers survived a waterlogged field to shock Dobyns-Bennett 2-1 on Thursday night in the 1-AAA tournament semifinals at Tennessee High’s Stone Castle.
“It’s been a roller-coaster season for us,” Science Hill coach Brandon Kind said. “We’d put something good together and then a rift would pull it apart. However, through all of it, these guys never lost hope.
“They never stopped believing. I call them my safety net; there’s no holes in these guys. Without those trials, we wouldn’t have won today.”
The Hilltoppers (9-5-2) will face Sullivan South in a rematch of last season’s district title match Thursday at 7 p.m. The Rebels, the defending tournament champions, comfortably dismissed Tennessee High 4-1 in Tuesday’s nightcap.
A fifth seed, the Hill never appeared a safe bet to reach the Region 1 tournament. Now, based on Tuesday’s superlative performance, Kind, in his first season as coach, may have the inside track on hosting a regional semifinal next week.
Science Hill opened with unmatched enthusiasm Tuesday, and nearly took the lead on three separate occasions. Instead, against the run of play, the Indians (13-4-2) struck first.
David Geno’s floated free kick to the far post picked out Jack Dell, whose header back across goal left Hilltoppers goalkeeper Michael Cutshall sprawling helplessly.
“I thought we had weathered the storm,” Tribe coach Shane Calvert said.
He was wrong.
A deserved equalizer arrived just six minutes later through Alex Weaver. Weaver, latching onto a superb diagonal pass from Josh Adleman, produced a splendid volley at the near post that Jesse Jenkins, for once, could do nothing about. The D-B keeper produced a string of unbelievable stops over the first 10 minutes.
Weaver tormented the Indians all night — save for 10 minutes in the second half when he left the match with a busted lip.
“We’re finding our stride in this tournament,” Weaver said. “We gave it our all out there. I think we wanted more. They’re a great team, but we wanted it more.”
The second half offered little in the way of attacking play until the 59th minute, when another fine stop by Jenkins denied Weaver. The Hilltoppers would have the last say, though, just a minute later.
Weaver was again at the center of a brilliant Science Hill offensive move, unleashing a teasing crossing pass to the back stick for Jared Richardson to volley past Jenkins.
D-B poured forward over the final 10 minutes of the match — but simply could not find a way back. Its final throw of the dice, a corner kick deep into stoppage time, saw all 11 Indians in the penalty area. It ended with Dell heading wide from 6 yards.
Geno, who entered the match with 28 goals this term, was a nonfactor for most of the night. Credit for his lack of influence must go to defender Johnny Campbell, who was immense at the back for the ‘Toppers.
“Players like Geno are one in a million, but Johnny was amazing tonight,” Kind said. “It doesn’t get any better than this.”