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Bennett, defense carries Scots to USA South title

Maryville College defender Cole Hilton clears the ball off goalkeeper Ryan Jorgensen’s 6-yard box during the USA South tournament championship game on Saturday at Maryville. Photos by Jolanda Jansma

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Everything changed with Ryan Jorgensen.

The Maryville native left for Division I East Tennessee State University four years ago as the finest goalkeeper Blount County high school soccer has ever produced.

Johnson City wasn’t the right fit. It didn’t feel like home. So, three years ago, Jorgensen returned home. Maryville College built a brutally tough defense around the uber-talented keeper.

Saturday, that defense put Maryville over the top, the Scots blanking their namesakes from Covenant College, 1-0, in the USA South Athletic Conference tournament championship game at Maryville.

Securing the conference’s automatic bid, the Scots open NCAA Tournament play in Gambier, Ohio, this weekend, where Maryville meets Kenyon College in a first-round game.

Trevor McDonald deflected a Jace Burchfield shot home early in the second half, and Maryville (14-3-1) made it stand, defender and tournament most valuable player Kyle Bennett a big part of the reason why.

“We knew going in it was going to be a physical match,” the junior from Murfreesboro said. “It’s a little rivalry, too. They’re two hours away from us. We knew it was going to be a big match. The thing we’d said (before the match) is it’s about heart and determination.”

Saturday’s title avenged a 3-0 loss to Covenant during the regular season.

Defender Kyle Bennett, a junior from Murfreesboro, was named the tournament’s most valuable player.

“We talked about it as the season went through, how disappointing it was,” Maryville coach Pepe Fernandez said. “We talked about our mentality at the time … there were a lot of factors there, including we just weren’t ready to play yet.”

Maryville has seen no shortage of elite offensive talent through the years. Hall of Famers Chris Reid and Jody Tootle, the first All-Americans in the history of the men’s program, could unleash punishing feats of speed and skill.

Former Scot Caleb Lucas, the only two-time All-American at the school, teamed with sidekick Tim Baker to create something genuinely lethal.

Few players ever rival former Scot Paul Weick for flat out wizardry over the ball.

The 2018 Scots plant their flag in the defensive third. Nate Long, Cole Hilton, Gavin Daugherty and Bennett comprise a back four that may have no peer. They’ve helped Jorgensen craft a season that could place the next All-American certificate in Maryville’s trophy case.

With Saturday’s championship shutout, the former Maryville High Rebel has yielded 11 goals in a 1,569 minutes of soccer for an all-time program-best 0.63 goals against average.

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