It was an adjustment period unlike any Wayne Quinlan had encountered before.
The coach of the Hilton Head Island High boys soccer team generally knows what his Seahawks will bring to the table before each season begins. Except this year, of course, as Hilton Head High stumbled out of the gate with an 0-3 record.
"It took me longer to get a handle on this team than it has for any team that I've had that I can remember," Quinlan said. "Just to figure out who can play where, what was our shape or our formation going to be. In the preseason and in pre-region season, it was all experimentation. I'm not sure we played the same formation two matches in a row."
That experimentation cost the Seahawks early on. Now it's paying dividends.
"We've learned a lot of things about ourselves and I've learned a lot of things about my team," Quinlan said.
The Seahawks have come a long way since that inauspicious start to the year. They've rattled off 13 consecutive wins to close the regular season, claimed the Region 7-AAA championship and earned a first-round home date with St. James tonight in the Class 3-A playoff opener.
"I think we're in a pretty good spot considering where we started at 0-3," Quinlan said.
Much of that can be credited to the adjustments the Seahawks made on the field, namely at center midfield, where Hilton Head High turned a trouble spot early on into one of its strongest positions. Quinlan said it also took longer than usual to determine where some transfer players fit into the Seahawks' game plans.
"You lost because you have certain weaknesses, and they were exposed," Quinlan said. "We were not very good at what we were doing, in particular at center midfield. We set about improving that and we did."
Those adjustments have earned the Seahawks one of the top seeds in the postseason. Should they get by the Sharks tonight, they'll host either Hartsville or A.C. Flora in the second round on Thursday.
Hilton Head High is joined by a pair of region foes in the playoffs, as Bluffton travels to Socastee tonight while Battery Creek hosts North Myrtle Beach at 5 p.m. The Dolphins capped off a 12-4-1 regular season campaign last Friday with a 3-1 win over Wade Hampton.
Another pair of area schools earned spots in the Class A postseason brackets, highlighted by Hardeeville, which claimed a first-round bye into Thursday's second round. The Hurricanes (8-3-1), who are making their fourth consecutive playoff appearance, will host either St. Johns or Military Magnet at 5:30 p.m. Hardeeville is led by freshman Martin Sotelo, who has netted 14 goals so far this season.
Ridgeland joins Hardeeville in the playoffs, as the Jaguars travel to Burke today in the hopes of advancing to take on top-seeded Blackville-Hilda.