Cayla Hennessey knows what it takes to win a state championship. She also knows all too well how it feels to come close.
Hennessey was a freshman when the Hilton Head High girls soccer team won a state championship in 2008 with a 3-1 upset of top-ranked Riverside in the finals. In the following two seasons, the Seahawks reached the Lower State semifinals (2009) and Lower State finals (2010) before falling to South Aiken both years.
This year's Seahawks, Hennessey said, can replicate the success of 2008.
"We have a lot of strengths and lot of speed," Hennessey said after the Seahawks clinched a region title last week. "We're a young team, so I think we appreciate this more. We have more of a drive to win."
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The Seahawks, ranked No. 2 in Class 3-A, will open up their drive for a state title when they host Lakewood tonight at 7 p.m.
They take an 18-4 record into the matchup, though just one of those losses -- against Brookland-Cayce -- came against an in-state opponent. The Seahawks have won five straight games, outscoring opponents 26-2.
Beaufort High School, Region 8-AAAA champions, plays host to South Aiken at 6 tonight. The Eagles (11-4) won four of their final five contests to close the regular season, with the lone loss coming at Summerville.
Coach Terry Rawlins' team will try to improve on its 2010 campaign, when the Eagles were booted from the first round by Lexington.
Class 4-A girls playoffs, first round, South Aiken at Beaufort High, 6 p.m.
Class 3-A girls playoffs, first round, Lakewood at Hilton Head High, 7 p.m.
Class 3-A girls playoffs, first round, Bluffton at Crestwood, 6 p.m.
EAGLES LEARN FROM LOSS
If the Beaufort High boys soccer team is to earn another shot at Class 4-A power Irmo, it will have to be in the state title game.
And the Eagles feel they have learned from the most recent time the teams met.
Irmo bounced Beaufort High last season from the Lower State semifinal, a 3-0 Eagles' loss in Columbia. Beaufort High had won each of its first two rounds by a combined 10 goals but finally hit a wall.
"They were on another level," Beaufort High defender Parker Essary said. "We weren't ready, as a team, to step up to that level. But this year, I think we're ready."
Beaufort High begins another run Tuesday at home against White Knoll.
The good news? Irmo was seeded in the Upper State, meaning a potential rematch would not be possible unless both teams reach the Class 4-A final. Beaufort High coach Gabriel Nieves has told his team to focus on each task at hand.
That might become more difficult the closer Irmo looms.
"I hope this year we can stand up to the talent," Eagles junior Kyle Clark said.