Note: This story was last updated at 1:05 p.m. May 16.
Hardin Valley Academy’s soccer team made the short trip to Oak Ridge on Thursday evening for a matchup against the Wildcats in the Region 2-AAA championship.
The Hawks, now 17-0-2, looked to not only earn a win, but also the chance to host their next game. The Wildcats, now 15-4-2, were looking to do the same.
There was a packed house and a full student section on hand as the match kicked off underneath an overcast sky. Hardin Valley opened up the game up with a couple of good looks before Oak Ridge narrowly missed on an opportunity less than six minutes into the first half.
Senior goalie Jake Livengood had a very nice performance for the Wildcats in the first half, and after 40 minutes of action, the two teams went to the half scoreless.
When the two teams took the field again in the second half, the Hardin Valley attack was quick to strike. A mere 70 seconds into the second half, Hardin Valley capitalized on an opportunity and junior midfielder Evan Zelem scored the first and only goal of the match at about 41:10.
The Wildcats worked hard and earned a few opportunities late, but Oak Ridge was never able to get on the board.
After the game, Wildcat assistant coach Xandy Vandenberg briefly spoke about the match. Vandenberg mentioned that the Wildcats played on Tuesday night, while Hardin Valley played on Monday, giving the Hawks an extra day to rest.
“That was a huge factor,” Vandenberg said. “They were really tired, but they still played really hard. Our seniors gave everything they had.”
With the loss, the Wildcats will hit the road and travel to Science Hill on Saturday for a Class AAA state sectional game. The game starts at 2 p.m. at Science Hill’s football stadium. The winner will move on to the state tournament.
The Hilltoppers beat Morristown West for the Region 1-AAA championship. The Hilltoppers and the Wildcats faced off back in March, but the result was a 2-2 draw.
Thursday’s win gave Hardin Valley Academy home-field advantage for Saturday’s sectional game. The Hawks will host Morristown West at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.
Oak Ridge advanced to Thursday’s Region 2 championship by beating Farragut 2-1 in an overtime win during a regional semifinal on Tuesday. Hardin Valley had advanced by beating Halls 8-1 in the other Region 2 semifinal on Monday.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
Here are more pictures by Luther Simmons: