High School Sports

Hilton Head High girls win state championship

COLUMBIA -- Sara Manesiotis' first inclination told her to pass the ball off the set piece.

Her gut had a different feeling -- so she stuck with it instead.

Good thing.

Manesiotis buried a direct free kick into the corner of the net, the clutch game-winner in Hilton Head High's 4-2 victory against Fort Mill in Friday's Class 3-A state championship match. The Seahawks clinched their second state title in four seasons, this one at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.

"It's the state finals, so I just went for it all," Manesiotis said. "And said, 'Please let me just go out with a goal.' "

Indeed, it was a fitting end to Manesiotis' decorated four-sport career at Hilton Head High. It was perhaps an even more appropriate finish to the Seahawks' historic 2011 season, which included victories against Wando and Academic Magnet, two teams that also took home S.C. High School League state championships Friday.

Like so many of their counterparts, the Seahawks began the year with state championship aspirations. They were one of the few, however, to deliver -- even if it took some late dramatics to make it happen.

The Seahawks (23-4) faced two one-goal deficits in the second half, but they rallied from both in an action-packed second half.

With the score knotted at 2-2, Manesiotis gave Hilton Head High its first lead of the game in the 66th minute. Kelsey Fitzhugh put away a goal with six minutes left for good measure, the dagger to Fort Mill's playoff run.

Four different players scored for Hilton Head High, which had nine players score in the final three postseason games.

"You'd think we'd be extremely selfish in a game everyone is watching, but we just want to win," midfielder Emily Crick said. "We all know it takes everyone on this team to do that, and it showed today."

Early on, it looked as if the Yellow Jackets would be the team leaving with the trophy.

Fort Mill (17-7-3) dominated the game's opening minutes, and capitalized when Ashton Wolfe kicked a loose ball past Maraia Tremarelli in the third minute. The goal temporarily stunned the Seahawks, who played on their heels for the first 15 minutes.

"You didn't see that (aggression) from us the rest of the game," Fort Mill coach Ryan Morris said.

He saw it from the Seahawks, who came out more motivated and much less nervous after halftime.

Julee Kuklinksi helped that cause. The sophomore blistered a shot past Fort Mill keeper Hattie Ruch less than two minutes into the half to tie the game.

Following a goal from Fort Mill forward Kristin Headden, Seahawks sophomore Faith Lifer scored five minutes later to erase another deficit.

"That's all these kids needed to get fired up," Seahawks coach Ernie Suozzi said. "There was no letdown. It seemed invigorating when we trailed. It got the juices going."

The Seahawks played a more focused strategy in the second half, as well. They were called for 14 offsides infractions in the opening half, with Fort Mill pushing up its defenders to nearly midfield.

Hilton Head High reverted to its outside speed game in the second half, which spread the field and led to three of the four second-half scores.

"We never got our heads down today," Manesiotis said. "We told ourselves in the locker room (at halftime) that whoever worked the hardest and whoever had the most heart would win this game. And that team won."

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