Even the best streaks must come to an end.
After four straight state championships, the Hilton Head girls soccer team was overrun by the Dreher Blue Devils, 7-3, in the Class 3-A state championship game at River Bluff High School on Friday evening.
This was no fluke. In truth, the Seahawks never appeared in control of the match.
"There's only two teams that get this far," coach Ernie Suozzi said after the match. "Coming in in second place, it's not what we're used to or like to do, but there's nothing to be sad about."
That was thanks to Dreher junior Kasey Parker, a three-time all-state performer with a staggering 57 goals on the season, including 5 in this game alone. Parker showed why she has already committed to South Carolina a year ahead of time: She was far and away the best player on a field filled with defending state champions.
"She very good. She's a very good player," Suozzi said. "There's a lot of good players, and she's one of them. Up there with the best of them."
It took just a minute for Parker to weave through the Seahawks' stunned back line before drilling a shot between the legs of keeper Sam Wammock. She'd score less than three minutes later with a more breathtaking effort from the edge of the box.
Hilton Head, as they have done before, rallied back to tie the game in lightning quick fashion. Becca Johnston broke free to put the visitors on the board moments after Parker's second, and Jaclyn Couch tied the game with a short-range finish off of Johnston's cross.
That's where the fun stopped for the Seahawks. Naomi Matthusen made it 3-2 to Dreher and then Parker converted a penalty. She'd add her fourth before halftime.
Any hope of a miraculous comeback was quashed quickly in the second half, when Parker again broke free and slotted another by Wammock to make it 6-2. It's doubtful that the Seahawks have had to contend with a player as good in any of their previous four championships.
Keeper Sam Wammock converted a penalty with 9 minutes to play, a nice consolation goal for a player the team rallied around this week after her father, Eric, fell and injured his head last weekend.
"To be honest with you, she's one of my strongest penalty takers," Suozzi said with a chuckle.
It's easy in the wake of such a defeat to forget the accomplishments of the first team to come up short in the last five years, but that would be doing a disservice to a squad that lost two North-South participants and other attacking talent over the offseason.
The Seahawks, as they always have done under Suozzi, replaced those parts and improved enough to win another Lower State final in emotional circumstances. Despite defeat, Suozzi was clear that this team had a lot to be proud of.
"We'll be back," Suozzi said. "There's nothing wrong with coming in second in a situation like this."