They expected to be here. That has been the goal for nearly a year.
Ernie Suozzi says it's no longer enough. And his team is beginning to agree -- it needs one more win before it labels 2011 a success.
Hilton Head High will travel to Memorial Stadium in Columbia today to face Fort Mill in the Class 3-A state title match at 5 p.m. The Seahawks last won the state championship in 2008.
They fell one game shy of the finals last season -- which players have used as constant motivation this spring.
"I think we've gotten the desire to want it more since last year," said Kelsey Fitzhugh, one of several sophomores on the team. "We know we lost last year because of our mistakes. We've focused a lot on perfecting everything, because we know how important that is."
They've played close to perfection in their playoff run. The Seahawks have outscored opponents 22-1 in four games.
And they quickly make teams forget how young they are. The Seahawks (22-4) have just three seniors on the roster -- compared to 12 sophomores -- though they don't necessarily consider themselves inexperienced.
With only three seniors on last year's team, most of the players found their share of playing time. More importantly, they learned to play with one another. Suozzi said his team has become more and more unselfish as the season progresses, and it certainly shows. In the Seahawks' past two games, six different players have combined to score their seven goals.
"That's the way it's been all season," said Suozzi, in his second year as coach. "They like each other. It's the continuity they built that's carried the team a lot."
Speed and defense have played their part. With all-state selection Maraia Tremarelli in goal, the Seahawks have allowed only three goals in the past nine games.
Their quick-footed offense, by comparison, has scored 48 goals in that span. The Seahawks will have an even greater ability to use their midfield speed today at the spacious field inside Memorial Stadium.
In the past two games, the offense found the back of the net early. Suozzi said grabbing another early lead today against Fort Mill (17-6-3) will be key. Fort Mill has won nine of its past 10 games.
"We've been good about coming out early and scoring, and that's what we have to do," Suozzi said. "If we come out early and put a couple away, they'll be deflated, and we'll get rid of any nerves we might have."
SCHSL CLASS 3-A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
Who: Hilton Head High (22-4) vs. Fort Mill (17-6-3)
When: Today, 5 p.m.
Where: Memorial Stadium, 1000 S. Holly St., Columbia
Notes: The Class 2-A finals will begin at 3 p.m. The Class 4-A finals will start at 7 p.m.