More on Hilton Head Island's Class 3-A soccer sweep

ccox@islandpacket.comMay 20, 2013 

By now you have probably heard that Hilton Head High swept the Class 3-A state soccer championships over the weekend at Gilbert High. If not, those stories can be found here and here.

The girls won their third consecutive state title on the strength of goals from twin sisters Ashley and Amanda Green. The boys continued the run a day later, atoning for last season's loss in the final with a 1-0 victory over top-ranked Eastside. Georgia Southern signee Chris MacMurray provided the fatal blow on a penalty kick in the 74th minute.

It came as no surprise to boys coach Wayne Quinlan, who has seen this coming since a 5-0 win over Airport to begin the postseason run earlier this month.

"I have had a feeling over the last couple of weeks," he said. "With the way this team was focused on their faith that they were going to be rewarded for what they were doing. I really felt good about the playoffs all the way through. I was more nervous when we played Airport than I was against any other team."

Faith was big for the Hilton Head High boys team this season. They showed it quickly after Saturday's win, sprinting for shirts on the sideline that the Fellowship of Christian Athletes created for them.

"This group has bought into one singular concept greater than any group I've ever coached," Quinlan said. "And that is the concept that there is someone greater than us, the God of the universe, and He deserves all this glory."

"That's something that they bought into and they were so excited and so determined to run over there as winners and put those t-shirts on," he added. "And that is a tremendous legacy for those kids to leave behind."

Those shirts have hopefully been washed since the Seahawks first donned them Saturday. Hilton Head High and Eastside battled in difficult conditions for 80 long minutes in the final, as high temperatures and an almost unbearable humidity bore down on the two clubs.

"The conditions were just terrible, the heat was oppressive," Quinlan said. "When you play that we like to play -- going in and closing people down, winning balls off and battling for 50-50 balls -- that's hard work, man. After 10 or 15 minutes of that out here, you're ready for a break."

Conditions were much better the night before, when the girls team jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Eastside scored a pair of goals late. It was the first time in Hilton Head High's impressive postseason run that an opposing team found the back of the net.

The Seahawks finished with 18 shutouts on the season, tying the supposed school record established just a season ago.

For coach Ernie Suozzi, it was a fourth state championship in six years. Naturally, most of his excitement was directed toward his current crop of players, which included a group of 12 seniors, eight of which were starters.

"It feels awesome for the girls," Suozzi said. "It doesn't help me with anything, but for the girls, it's something you can't even think about. It's just an awesome experience for them."

One of those seniors was Bridgette Noonan, who deserves a bit more love for the last two titles than people probably realize. She provided the assist on the lone goal in last year's win -- a 1-0 win over Eastside -- and added another Saturday. What's more impressive is that she arrived in Columbia less than two hours before game time after a trip to Australia earlier in the week.

"She was at the International Science Competition," Suozzi said. "She had won an award to go out there. So she flew out and she wasn't there for (Monday's) game. ... She got in about 3:30 (Saturday)."

The two championships continued a recent string of success for the soccer programs at Hilton Head High. The teams have now combined to win four state championships and earn five title game appearances in the last three years. Quinlan and Suozzi will soon begin working toward next season's clubs, but for now, the celebration continues in the Lowcountry.

"The goal right now is to soak this one in, go fishing and we'll think about next year in a couple of days," Quinlan said.

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