High School Sports

Seahawks cruise past Airport into Lower State finals

Julee Kuklinski sensed a degree of intensity in Hilton Head High's pregame warmups that she hadn't noticed before.

But she knew where it originated. The Seahawks forward said she and her teammates felt disrespected when they were told of a prediction that had them losing one game shy of the Class 3-A Lower State finals.

How foolish that appears now.

The Seahawks rolled past Airport, 5-0, on Friday night to reach their fourth Lower State championship match in five years, in which they will face either Brookland-Cayce or St. James.

Hilton Head High led 4-0 at halftime Friday, and used most of the second half to rest its starters.

"We were pumped up in warmups," Kuklinski said. "When someone said they thought we would lose, for me personally, that makes me want to try even harder if people actually think we're an underdog."

Few should now.

The Seahawks will host Monday's Lower State finals, attempting to reach their third state championship match in five years. They won the title in 2008.

If they play as they did Friday night, they will be a tough out. The Seahawks peppered goalie Brigitte Shumpert with 13 shots on goal while holding Airport without a shot on goal of its own in the game.

Determined to keep the Seahawks off the board, Shumpert turned aside the first five shots she faced and received some help when Emily Crick hit the crossbar and Cayla Hennessey hit the post in the game's first 20 minutes.

Defender Chynna Bachman broke through in the 22nd minute with a score on a free kick, and things snowballed for the offense from there. Hennessey scored five minutes later, and Ashley Green and Kuklinski added goals before halftime.

"I was sitting on the bench when (Bachman) scored, but I could tell immediately that everyone started settling in and relaxed," Kuklinski said. "It made a big difference."

The Eagles (17-7-2) attempted to use counterattacks off the Seahawks' chances, but those were slowed by Hilton Head High's midfield.

Airport coach Keith Morris said he expected a difficult test and referred to his team -- which entered the night No. 5 in Class 3-A -- as the underdogs.

"They're the best 3-A team in the state, and they might be the best team in the state overall, 4-A included," Morris said. "To me, they're the favorite to win a state championship."

First, they will have to get there. The Seahawks already have lost once to Brookland-Cayce, though they were missing goalie Maraia Tremarelli in that matchup.

Seahawks coach Ernie Suozzi said his team is much improved since that early-season matchup, which Hilton Head High lost 2-1.

"In this one here, I think they really turned a corner; I saw a maturity level I haven't seen," Suozzi said. "I liked the level we were at, but I'll take another level."

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