In more ways than one, the spring sports season distinguished itself from past years in Beaufort and Jasper counties.
Two teams brought home state championships -- the Hilton Head High girls soccer team and the Thomas Heyward Academy softball team. Two athletes won individual state titles at the Class 4-A state track meet -- Veneshia Holmes in the long jump and Madeline Aune in the pole vault.
You may think such accomplishments make it easier to make all-area selections. You would be wrong.
In a year marked by an abundance of talented athletes, there were state champions and several all-state selections left off our list.
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Sara Manesiotis, Hilton Head High
A perfect ending to a season. An even better ending to a storied high school career.
Sara Manesiotis certainly went out in style.
In a soccer season filled with highlights, Manesiotis provided Hilton Head High's biggest -- the game-winning goal in the Seahawks' 4-2 win against Fort Mill to capture the Class 3-A state championship. Manesiotis drilled a free kick into the upper left corner of the net to give Hilton Head High a one-goal lead with 15 minutes to play, which they held onto for their second state title in four seasons.
"It's the state finals, so I just went for it all," Manesiotis said after the game. "And said, 'Please just let me go out with a goal.' "
It was the final kick of Manesiotis' soccer career. The four-sport athlete will give up soccer to focus on cross country and track next fall, when she will attend Clemson on an athletic scholarship.
She stood out on the soccer field nonetheless, though she was just one of a number of contributors to the Seahawks' historic 23-4 season, which also included a tournament title at the prestigious Taco Bell Viking Cup to open the season.
Coach of the year: Ernie Suozzi, Hilton Head High
Player of the year: Sara Manesiotis, Hilton Head High
Best of the rest: Sydney Boggs, Beaufort High; Kathleen Blum, Hilton Head Prep; Hailey Conners, Beaufort High; Lane Czura, Hilton Head Prep; Jessica Day, Hilton Head Christian; Megan Farrell, Hilton Head High; Jordan Houghton-James, Hilton Head High; Naomi McCracken, Bluffton; Maraia Tremarelli, Hilton Head High; Miranda Weslake, Beaufort Academy.
Ashlie Layman, Thomas Heyward
Thomas Heyward softball coach Bob Layman admits he feels a bit awkward about tooting the horn for his star pitcher. She is his daughter, after all.
But that's OK, because Ashlie Layman's statistics make all the necessary noise.
The Rebels' star went 26-2 with 15 shutouts and a 0.58 ERA on the mound, and she hit .356 with three home runs and team highs in doubles (10) and RBIs (38) as a junior. In 133 2-3 innings, she piled up 147 strikeouts and allowed only 47 hits and 34 walks.
Layman's dominance continued in the SCISAA Class 2-A state championship series, in which the Rebels outscored Colleton Prep 22-1 in a two-game sweep and Layman was almost unhittable. She allowed only six hits and one unearned run while mowing down the Warhawks.
Layman still has one more season with the Rebels before taking on her next challenge -- she has committed to play at USC Beaufort after graduation.
Coach of the year: Bob Layman, Thomas Heyward Academy
Player of the year: Ashlie Layman, Thomas Heyward Academy
Best of the rest: Chandler Cook, THA; Andrea Daring, THA; Whitney Halley, Hilton Head High; Brianna Kelnhofer, THA; Summer Lawson, Bluffton; Jenny Mullins, Beaufort High; Melissa Peebles, Bluffton; Ariel Promislow, Beaufort High; Courtney Smith, Bluffton.
TRACK & FIELD
Veneshia Holmes, Beaufort High
Veneshia Holmes knew Danielle McFadden held the edge.
At qualifying for the S.C. High School League Class 4-A state track meet, Sumter's McFadden finished 7 inches ahead of the Beaufort High School junior in the long jump. And so Holmes entered the state meet at Spring Valley High School feeling her No. 2 seed.
But after watching McFadden scratch more than once, Holmes knew she had a chance. She jumped 17 feet, 4 inches -- shy of her qualifying number but good enough to claim gold by an inch.
"That gave me a boost to keep going," Holmes said of McFadden's scratches. "I could have jumped better."
The 10 points helped spur a big first day for the Eagles, who wound up finishing fourth. Holmes went on to help the 4x100-meter relay team to a second-place finish and ran with a 4x400 relay that finished fourth.
"That was our best time we ever raced 4x4," said Holmes. "We cut off a lot of seconds. I'm happy with our time."
Coach of the year: Herb Glaze, Beaufort High
Athlete of the year: Veneshia Holmes, Beaufort High
Best of the rest: Madeline Aune, Beaufort High; Deja Jackson, Beaufort High; Aaliyah Hill, Hardeeville; Shawanda Stokes, Bluffton.
Gabbie Tosky, Bluffton
Name an honor for a high school athlete, and chances are Gabbie Tosky has earned it at some point during her career on the lacrosse field.
A six-year letterman for Bluffton High School, she saved her best for last. The Bobcats' do-it-all standout scored an astounding 65 goals her senior season, and she added 19 assists -- numbers that earned her S.C. Lacrosse League Player of the Year honors.
Her impact on the team, though, went beyond the numbers. Tosky turned a potential rebuilding year into a season of achievement, leading the Bobcats to the second round of the playoffs in the second year of sanctioned lacrosse in the state. The Bobcats beat rival Hilton Head High, 12-11, in the opening round behind seven goals from Tosky, including a game-winner from a seemingly impossible angle in the final minutes.
The five-time all-state selection will continue her career next year at Converse College.
She is the Island Packet/Beaufort Gazette Girls Lacrosse Player of the Year for the third consecutive season.
Coach of the year: Jen Landers, Bluffton
Player of the year: Gabbie Tosky, Bluffton
Best of the rest: Gabby Avent, Hilton Head High; Sammi Burns, Hilton Head High; Taylor Cocuzza, Bluffton; Elaine Natoli, Hilton Head High; Talley Young, Bluffton.