On a big day for the school, it wasn't the outcome USC Beaufort was hoping for.
With University of South Carolina President Harris Pastides and other dignitaries in attendance only hours after the ceremonial groundbreaking for a new recreation complex at USCB's Hilton Head Gateway campus, the Sand Sharks fell 4-0 on Thursday to rival SCAD Savannah in the Sun Conference women's soccer tournament quarterfinals.
But it was the Sand Sharks' first home conference tournament game, a mark of progress for a USCB program that has made big strides in three years of existence.
"It's disappointing to lose, but at the same time, I can look back and see how much progress we've made," head coach Ed Heberling said. "I look back and think about how far we've come. Two years ago, we won one game."
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Where the Sand Sharks came from, however, didn't matter to SCAD on Thursday. The Bees were too busy putting USCB in an early hole.
Shelby Dieckamp found Eliza Balen twice on corner kicks, first in the 16th minute, then again in the 21st minute. Meadhbh Deeney added another goal in the 34th minute on a nifty turnaround shot from the left wing, and USCB was down 3-0 more than 10 minutes before the half.
"It's a tough loss. We played a really good team," Heberling said. "We gave up a couple of corner kick goals. I don't even know when the last time we gave up one of those was. That's normally our strong suit.
"We just gave those up, and it was just tough to come back from it. We're just not an offensively explosive team."
The Sand Sharks couldn't live up to their performance against the Bees three weeks ago, when USCB won 2-1 in Hardeeville.
"I think we came out just a little flat," Heberling said. "And they came out pretty pumped up. Their coach is retiring at the end of the year, so they had a lot to play for. They came out really pumped up and energized."
Zola Owsley scored for the Bees in the 73rd minute to close the scoring.
The loss marked the final game for USC Beaufort midfielder/defender Sinead Byrne, the Sand Sharks' lone senior.
"She was one that worked her tail off this offseason and wanted to go out with a bang," Heberling said. "We're going to miss her. She was a leader on this team."
For a squad that started five freshmen and three juniors on Thursday, Heberling said the Sand Sharks goal for season No. 4 is simple: "Improve again."
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