Scheduling a non-district contest against a smaller school between a key district match and a prestigious tournament featuring some of the state’s best teams could easily lead to a letdown in a trap game.
No problem for Maryville when that smaller non-district foe is Alcoa.
Led by a hat trick from left wing Austin Stringer, Maryville (4-3) dominated play on the Tornado pitch Tuesday evening to earn a 6-1 victory over Alcoa (2-3).
“I was hyped up because it’s a rival game,” Stringer said. “It’s Alcoa, and I have a few friends on their team, so that made it a little bit more fun. We took care of it, took the win.”
Both coaches mentioned intensity as a key factor.
“They outworked us from the first whistle to the last,” Alcoa coach Shane Corley said. “We didn’t compete for 80 minutes tonight. We didn’t compete at all.”
Maryville coach Steve Feather, despite still voicing frustration with his team’s inability to finish, agreed.
“We came out with good defensive energy,” Feather said, “and I’m proud of the guys for continuing to work in the second half when it would have been easy to take the pedal off.”
Maryville enjoyed a 3-0 halftime lead. Alex Sonner earned the first of his three assists nine minutes in as the Rebels executed perfectly on the first corner kick of the game. Sonner placed his kick across the goal face about 10 yards deep where defender Harry McIntosh pushed forward to bang the ball home.
The second Rebel goal was a gift when Alcoa goalkeeper Jacob Templin delayed in clearing a back pass. Jack Cone charged in, stripped Templin and had an easy poke into the empty net with 12 minutes remaining in the half.
Stringer hit the first of his trio of goals with two minutes left before the break on another Alcoa miscue. Stringer and a defender were streaking down the sideline but the Alcoa player came up empty on a clearing chance, leaving the Rebel junior one-on-one with Templin.
Stringer lofted a high-angled shot just beyond Templin’s reach to the far post.
Maryville pushed its attack on the wings throughout the contest. Stringer struck again in the 46th minute with Sonner pressing in and crossing the ball to the far side for an easy strike.
Brandon Quinones benefited from the final Sonner assist. Sonner pushed in deep on the right wing, laid the ball back to the middle where Quinones and the goalkeeper jostled. Quinones’ soft shot across the goal line was played on, but the linesman signaled that it had broken the barrier to give Maryville a 5-0 margin 65 minutes in.
Jackson Whedbee entered at goalkeeper to replace Templin for the final 14 minutes. The sophomore made a great save on a hard shot, but the ball deflected back to Stringer who finished his hat trick with an easy tap-in on the rebound
With four minutes remaining. Tornado midfielder Matthew Stewart poked a through ball to Alec Reynolds, who timed his run perfectly. Reynold’s first shot was deflected by goalkeeper Colby Sinclair, who had replaced starter Judson Lindley, but the Alcoa striker crammed the rebound in to avert the shutout.
Maryville finished with 14 shots on goal to seven by Alcoa, and pushed for seven corner kicks to four by the Tornadoes.
In addition to scoring on its first corner kick attempt, each successive Maryville corner pressured the Alcoa defense. Alcoa mustered little action on its set pieces, often sending the ball harmlessly out from the back post area.
Feathers was frustrated despite the win, focusing on missed opportunities such as one botched penalty kick and several deep pushes that led to ineffective finishes..
“We were creating opportunities on the flanks, but the story of our season is we are creating opportunities but just need someone to finish better,” Feathers said.
Alcoa travels to Concord Christian on Friday. Maryville will begin a weekend of several tough games in the Bearden Invitational, first against Greeneville on Friday.