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Lady Rebels off to stunning season start

Maryville senior Grace Oliver patrols the grounds at John Sevier during a recent match. Photos by Wallace Bowden

By Stefan Cooper
Editor
Blount Press Row

We knew Maryville was going to be good this year, but this is really something.

Jade Seery crosses from the wing.

Reyna Coston popped for two goals, Rachel Reid, Jade Seery and Aaliyah Vananda one each, and the host Lady Rebels routed their third consecutive opponent to open the season with a 5-0 shutout of Christian Academy of Knoxville on Tuesday at John Sevier.

It isn’t the shutouts that are a bit startling. A defense that returns reigning Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Year Abbey Kolarik and all-county defender Reid is plenty stout.

On offense, senior forward Grace Oliver has opened the season at a record pace, rifling home six goals in three matches, 11 with three preseason tuneups included. Coston, just back, is nothing short of terrific on the ball. Seery is a jet. Fellow senior Emma Rice, second to Oliver in scoring last season, is back, too!

“We’ve been successful, and I think it stems from practicing as hard as we play,” Oliver said. “We’re holding each other accountable because we’ve set such high expectations this year.”

That said, it isn’t 22 goals in three matches that hints of a rare roster. It’s who the Lady Rebels have beaten to put up those numbers — and by how much — that must surely be a trending topic among the state’s soccer powers.

After opening the season with an 8-0 win over William Blount, Maryville dropped a real shocker when it blanked defending Class A state champion Alcoa, 9-0, a week later. A nine-goal advantage in the second half constitutes the mercy rule in girls soccer.

Reigning Barley’s/Blount Press Row Player of the Year Abbey Kolarik anchors a defense that has yet to yield a goal this season.

The Lady Tornadoes lost top goal scorer Sydney O’Hara (Maryville College) to graduation following last season’s title run, senior defender Halle Foley to a knee injury over the summer, but the result with the Lady Rebels was still a stunner.

Alcoa fell in a close one, 2-0, a season ago.

CAK has four state titles to its credit over the years, the most recent coming at the close of the 2011 season.

To blank the Lady Warriors in the fashion the Lady Rebels did Tuesday is no small thing.

“I was proud of the girls for staying focused in the box and finally managing to put one by a relentless keeper,” Maryville coach Steve Feather said. “Their keeper was fantastic all night, but credit our girls are coming at CAK again and again.

“We’re going to face teams this year that do everything they can to just bunker in, and we are proud of our girls so far that they aren’t going to let them park the bus in front of the box and get away with it.”

The bar goes up a few notches this weekend when Feather’s club travels to Chattanooga to face an elite field at the Girls Preparatory School tournament. If the season’s start is any indicator, it looks as if the Lady Rebels are up for the challenge.

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