KNOXVILLE —- It’s no secret the Hardin Valley Academy boys soccer team
is looking to erase some
bitter memories. The Hawks have toiled to put the 2016 campaign in the rearview mirror.
Hardin Valley, which won just five games last season, has already posted a 3-2-3 record out of the gate this season.
The Hawks had mixed results at last week’s Bearden Invitational at Bruce Allender Field.
After opening the tournament with a 1-0 victory over Christ Presbyterian Academy Thursday, March 30, Hardin Valley came up on the short end of a 1-0 decision against Hendersonville Friday, March 31.
The Commandos [4-1-1] scored a the lone goal of the match when Isaiah Ireton’s weak shot rolled past the Hardin Valley defense and past HVA goalkeeper Andrew Foster in the third minute. That put the Hawks at an early disadvantage and stood up to give Hendersonville a victory in one of East Tennessee’s elite high school soccer tournaments.
“It’s always tough when you give up an early goal. Especially one that happened like
that,” HVA senior forward Tom Sissom said. “That was just a miscommunication.”
The Hawks had plenty of chances to pull even, but Hendersonville netminder Andrew Briley stopped five shots that landed on target. Hardin Valley’s best scoring chance, a shot by Dylan Vieyra, sailed over the crossbar in the 71st minute.
Hardin Valley had one last chance to tally the equalizer when Foster, who scored a goal against Farragut last season from the keeper position, took a free kick from midfield that went wide of the Commandos’ net in the waning seconds of the match.
Despite Friday night’s loss, Sissom said he feels that new head coach Nick Bradford [HVA’s third head coach in as many seasons] has the Hawks headed in the right direction.
“He’s pushing us to go beyond our peak,” Sissom said of Bradford. “We played well a few times tonight but we had some 50/50 balls that we probably should’ve gone after a little harder.
“[Bradford] is forcing us to give our all. It was tough for us last year and he really wants us to get back to the way we were two years ago when we went to state.”
Hardin Valley hasn’t exactly gotten the desired result every time out in 2017, but Bradford doesn’t have any complaints about his squad’s effort.
“We have to reach a point where our quality matches our effort,” Bradford said. “I love coaching these boys. They come in and they work hard every day.
“They’re devastated right now but they’re a resilient bunch. And I’d rather lose now than lose in May. We have to do a better job being ready for our moment. We had some mistakes that you can’t have when you play a quality program like Hendersonville.”
Commandos head coach Russ Plummer said that his young team can only get better for beating Hardin Valley and playing in the Bearden Invitational.
“We come over here every year to get good games against good competition and get better,” Plummer said. “[Former Bearden] coach [Eric] Turner did a good job putting this tournament together and coach [Ryan] Radcliffe has done a good job keeping things going.
“And we’re going to continue to come here every year to play these kinds of teams.”
Hardin Valley bounced back to earn a 1-1 draw in its tournament finale against Greeneville Saturday afternoon, April 2.
The Hawks fell behind 1-0 when J.P. Vital converted a penalty kick for the Greene Devils in the 15th minute.
Sissom scored the equalizer for the Hawks early in the second half. Blake Enis was credited with an assist on the game-tying marker.
The Hawks’ 1-0 win against Christ Presbyterian Academy was called midway through the second half due to lightning.
Jose Martinez scored the lone goal of the match after the teams slugged through a scoreless opening 40 minutes.