A four-game losing streak earlier this season did nothing to shake the confidence of the Hilton Head Island High boys lacrosse team.
The Seahawks were sitting at 2-4 after consecutive one-goal losses at Bishop England and Riverside. And yet, coach Dennis Daly's group was as happy as it had been all season. They team knew it was closing the gap, and the payoff seemed as close as ever.
"I think everybody could tell we were getting better," Daly said. "Coaches weren't unhappy. Players weren't unhappy. You could just tell we were right on the cusp. Everything was starting to click."
The results didn't show as soon as the Seahawks may have liked, but they appeared nevertheless. What followed was a five-game winning streak to end the regular season that catapulted Hilton Head High into a first-round home playoff game tonight against Spring Valley at 7 p.m. The girls team, meanwhile, will travel to Bishop England for its postseason opener.
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"The season's just long enough," Daly said, laughing.
A 16-8 home loss to Academic Magnet on March 2 was the eye-opener for the Seahawks. What was supposed to be a strong matchup between two talented clubs was anything but, and the loss changed the mindset of the type of team Hilton Head High believed it was.
"I think everyone was just shocked," Daly said. "But it pointed out a lot of our weaknesses and we went to work at it. The kids went to work at it, the coaches went to work at it. We learned more of what we couldn't do and also learned a little bit of what we could do."
Three more losses would follow that eight-goal setback, but the Seahawks began to show promise. They hung with the state's top-ranked team in Wando before the slim defeats to Bishop England and Riverside. But a 14-8 triumph at Spartanburg, where Nate Jones found the back of the net 11 times, jump-started the late-season push.
Hilton Head High would go on to win four more times after that, including an 8-3 win over Academic Magnet that exacted some revenge for the Seahawks. The group has tightened up its defense, solidified the face-off position and begun to show more balance on the offensive end.
"The kids are trusting one another," Daly said. "They're willing to give up the ball to someone else. They know they'll get it back."
The Seahawks (7-4) bring postseason experience to the table in this latest playoff push. Hilton Head High upset Fort Mill on the road last season to advance to the Lower State final, where they were knocked off 17-1 by Wando. The Warriors are the likely opponent should Hilton Head High get past Spring Valley (11-2) today.
The girls team, meanwhile, travels to face a Bishop England team that went 12-4 this season. The Bishops won the only meeting between the two schools this year, earning a 19-5 victory over the Seahawks on March 18. If coach Kathleen Marshall's team springs the upset, it will travel to face the winner of the Chapin-Blythewood game on Thursday.