High School Sports

Seahawks not yet satisfied

The celebration lasted less than five minutes. Coach Ernie Suozzi's speech of praise was even shorter.

His talk of what comes next -- of what could potentially develop -- will last for three days.

Hilton Head High moved past St. James, 2-1, in the Class 3-A girls Lower State finals match and will play for its second state championship in four seasons Friday in Columbia. The Seahawks will face Fort Mill, which defeated Greenville on Monday.

Hilton Head High players gathered at midfield following their victory Monday, but they kept their cheers to a routine. Suozzi did the same in his postgame meeting and spent the latter portion of it beginning his preparations for a state finals match.

"I told them they can enjoy it for an hour," Suozzi said. "We got one more."

They earned their title shot with defense.

The Seahawks grabbed a quick 2-0 lead before a lightning delay halted play for 41 minutes midway through the first half. Eight minutes after play resumed, Nicole Meyers scored on a free kick 5 yards shy of midfield, lofting the ball over the head of Seahawks keeper Maraia Tremarelli, whom Suozzi said lost the ball in the sun.

That, however, was the Sharks' final shot on goal. A stingy Seahawks defensive effort held St. James (19-3) without anything resembling a scoring chance over the final 52 minutes.

"Being up by only one goal, that changes the game completely," said Megan Farrell, a defensive midfielder. "You have to stick to your strong defense. That's our strategy -- that's where it starts with us."

Though it initially began with offense Monday night.

The Seahawks (22-4) didn't play their best soccer before the delay, Suozzi said, but they did enough to sneak in a pair of early scores, which proved to be the difference.

Julee Kuklinski scored six minutes into the game when she out-hustled the St. James defense and beat freshman keeper Rhylee DeCrane on a high-angled shot. Amanda Green added a goal in the 20th minute, kicking a free ball into the open net from a yard away.

"Even when we had the two goals, we weren't playing our game and possessing the ball," Suozzi said. "I think we were too jacked up, and we couldn't settle down."

The Seahawks managed to calm those nerves after halftime, and outshot the Sharks 6-0. DeCrane made 10 saves for the game.

The nerves will almost certainly play a factor Friday, when the Seahawks travel to Columbia for a 5 p.m. match at Memorial Stadium. Fort Mill is 17-7 and ranked fourth in the state, two spots behind Hilton Head High.

"We're going to have to block all that out and go out with that chip on our shoulder, just like we do for every game," Farrell said. "As long as we show up to play, I think we can do it."

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